Earlier this month, in just 24 hours, an Irish woman made $1,000,000. And it was all because of a soda bread scone. Mayo-born woman Mary O’Halloran became an overnight success after the famous Humans of New York Instagram account posted about her homemade scones.
Since then, Mary has been up to her elbows in flour, selling her scones right across America as well as running her Irish bar, Mary O’s, on Avenue A in Manhattan.
Run by American photographer Brandon Stanton, the Instagram page documents the stories of every day New Yorkers, often sharing emotional stories of love, loss and perseverance.
Posting Mary’s photo to his 11.3 million followers, Brandon quoted the Mayo woman as saying:
“We got shut down two days before St. Patrick’s Day. Always the biggest day for an Irish bar. My husband is a longshoreman, so he was trapped in the Aleutian Islands for nine months—no flights out. It was just me and six kids that needed homeschooling.
“I pulled all the furniture out of the bar, and made a section for each of them: pillow, blankets, everything they needed. Then I had to figure out how to survive. Other bar owners were just throwing up their hands, but I had to try something. I began catering dinners for emergency workers at a nearby hotel. It wasn’t much money, but it was something to do. Each night I’d cook dinner for thirty people. The kids would help when they could: peeling potatoes, washing dishes. But I’d be so exhausted every day.
“Everyone had so much faith in me to survive. Maybe because I keep the tough side out—everyone assumed I was OK. Nobody knew I was full of worries. But it was so freakin’ hard. To keep the kids happy. Month after month I’m falling further behind on the rent. It felt like the walls were closing in. But my regulars kept showing up. They ran errands for me. Sometimes they’d take the kids on walks to give me a break.
“There was a group of Irish musicians who would play here every Thursday night. They helped me set up an online store, so that I could sell scones to the music people. Soda bread scones with homemade blackberry jam. My mother’s recipe from back in Ireland. Really, it’s the simplest thing– but all six of us kids used to line up for them.
“In January a reporter named Roger Clark from NY1 came to do a story on the bar—about how I’ve been running it all alone, with my kids. And that angel, he had the anchors taste a scone live on TV. It created big scone hype for a few months. It wasn’t a ton of money. I was only making $1,800 for 100 boxes of scones. It wasn’t paying rent or anything. But it was something to do, you know? I finally found something that was working.
“People were writing notes, saying: ‘I gave these to my grandmother, and she loved them.’ It was the little bit of light that I needed. It pulled me forward. I didn’t feel alone anymore. It was like: ‘Oh My God, there’s something out there.’”
With 281, 826 likes and counting on Instagram alone (Brandon also has Twitter and Facebook account under the same name), the photo garnered a huge amount of attention and support. Especially when they saw Brandon’s own message.
“I’ve put together a special offer for you,” he wrote. “For $30 you can get an order of scones, a limited-edition drawing from Mary’s daughter Erin (depending on the amount of orders, the drawing might not be highly intricate. A lassie’s gotta do her homework.) Each box will also include an invisible Irish blessing that will be passed down through the generations to all of your descendants until the end of time.”
“Mary started crying when I suggested raising prices,” he added, “because she says other people are hurting more than her. So, if you are also in a tough spot, but want to try the scones, do not worry. The $18 non-magical scones are still available through her website.”
To say the offer went down a treat is the understatement of the century. In just 24 hours, over $1,000,000 worth of soda bread scones were sold.
Following up with a second photo, Brandon said that the orders might take a little time to complete. After all, Mary is waiting on flour from Mayo:
“The craic was ninety last night at Mary O’s as a wave of big scone hype crested right in the middle of Irish Music Night. Over $1,000,000 worth of soda bread scones were sold. But you’d never know from watching Mary. There was ne’er a tremble in her hand as she dished out shepherd pies and Guinness pints. Though to be honest—her composure mainly stemmed from her refusal to look at the number. We found a quiet table at the end of the night, and I gave her a full accounting.
“There were 25,000 orders, which meant 150,000 scones. She allowed herself a brief, joyful cry. Then she asked: ‘I can do this, right?’ I told her: ‘Of course.’ Because every one of those orders came from people who want the best for her. And I felt confident that we’d all be patient while she figured out a new process for making scones.
“Mary has a great team around her. She refers to them as ‘The Regulars’ as if they’re a squad of superheroes, but they’re actually longtime customers who transform into volunteers at a moment’s notice. Clint was serving food last night. Steve and Shelly were bartending. Liz and Deb were watching the kids. Alexia from @ruffclub dropped everything to manage Mary’s online ordering. Caitlin, Rogan, TJ, Sara, Mimi, Bob. The list goes on and on.
“All of them made clear to me that they show up for Mary because it’s been ten years of her showing up for them. ‘This woman deserves every bit of this,’ they said. ‘She gives and gives and never asks for a thing.’ With this support group, and her own business experience, Mary has all she needs to deliver 25,000 boxes of delicious, blackberry-jam-smothered, blessing-infused scones. It’s just going to take some planning. And some time.
“Our goal was always to help with Mary’s burdens, not add to them. She will deliver the scones as fast as she can. And things may fall into place rather quickly. But if you absolutely need your scones in the coming days, or even weeks, feel free to request a refund.
“For everyone else, your scones will drop from the sky like a pleasant Irish rain. And when the box is opened, your descendants will be blessed for a minimum of ninety generations. Thanks to all of you, and may the road rise to meet you.”
Updated / Friday, 20 Aug 2021 13:33