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Claddagh store closes a chapter in Little Neck

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"My daughters are sentimental," he said. "But there's so much to do. You just roll up your sleeves and pack."The venerable family-owned store, which opened in 1978 and specialized in Irish merchandise, closed Jan. 17 as the Mockler clan regrouped for the next phase of their business strategy. Mockler and his daughters, Franceen McPoland and Bette Terzi, are hoping to find another place for the store."We are still looking for a new location, and haven't found an exactly right fit," he said. "We want to stay in the radii for the customer base." He pointed out that the area's tight real estate market has made finding a new location difficult. "We don't want a landlord and the availability has really dried up here," Mockler said. The store was bought by a group of Flushing investors last fall in a package deal that included Mockler's restaurant, Patrick's Pub, located next to the Claddagh."We offered a service as long as we could, but we had to sell to people who could get more use out of this place," Mockler said. "We have to leave here with our heads held high."Propped against one counter was a frame with articles from the New York World Telegram and Sun, dated from 1964, showing a cheerful Mockler pouring his famous Irish coffee at the World's Fair. "It was a real upfront commercial" for his family's cuisine, he said, and cleared the way for the establishment of Patrick's Pub. After the World's Fair, Mockler and his brother opened the restaurant, whose subsequent popularity also boosted Claddagh's business."Patrick's Pub fed a lot of customers to the shop," he said. "We needed the dual enterprise." During the store's farewell party on Jan. 17, Mockler said he served one last batch of the Irish coffee to loyal customers and friends.Named for the Irish wedding band, the Claddagh store specialized in old country artifacts as well as newer Irish cultural goods, showcasing the works of artists and musicians. But the store's heart and soul lay in its inventory of Claddagh rings."There were a lot of competitors' goods, but they were not authentic," Mockler said. "It doesn't have the same romantic Irish hallmark."The Claddagh ring features two hands framing a heart topped with a crown. The hands represent friendship, the crown loyalty, and the heart is for "amore," Mockler said. Legend has it if a woman wears the Claddagh with the heart pointing toward her wrist, she is single. If she wears the ring with the heart upright, she is taken, he said.In the store's last few weeks, Mockler said the Claddagh rings all sold as well as the shop's inventory of Aran knits and garments, as customers stopped by to wish him luck and to get "their last lick at the Irish shop," he said. "Everybody feels the same way. They're sad to see it go."Even though the Little Neck store has closed, Mockler said customers will have other ways to shop at Claddagh in the future."We are going to get a Web site," he said. "We want to have a local outlet as well as a Web site."In the meantime, he and his family are taking a much-needed break, with Mockler planning a trip to Brazil with a "lady friend" who, it may be noted, has a Claddagh ring."The new shop may be up in six months, but everybody needs a vacation," he said. Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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