How the ‘Humans of New York’ Instagram Page Helped a Struggling Irish Pub Owner Have a Change of Luck

Mary from Mary O's Irish Pub

Mary O’Halloran's struggles began when two days before St. Patrick’s Day, the biggest day of the year for an Irish bar, they were shut down. She then got creative.

The Humans of New York Instagram page has over 11.2 million followers for a reason. Because it tells and shares incredible stories about everyday people in New York City.

 “New York City, one story at a time,” the page profile reads.

Recently the account told the story of Mary O’Halloran and her Mary O’s Irish Pub and Irish Soda Bread Shop. Mary began her story by noting that two days before St. Patrick’s Day, the biggest day for an Irish bar, they were shut down. That’s when she and her husband were forced to get creative.

“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,” Mary said.

“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.”

She says to make extra cash, she began catering dinners for about 30 emergency workers at a nearby hotel.

“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.”

Even though times were tough, with help, Mary was able to set up an online store.

Mary said, “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.”

Then in January, Irish Central said, Roger Clark, a reporter from NY1, featured Mary and her story and shared how she and her children had been running the bar alone. It created a hype that didn’t bring in a ton of money, but, as Mary says, “it was something to do.”

Mary’s luck got even better when Brandon Stanton, the man behind Humans of New York shared her story.

“I know there’s a volcano of big scone hype that’s about to erupt, so here’s our plan,” he added with her story.  “Mary normally charges $18 for an order of scones, but as she explained there’s barely any money in it for her. I do know that there’s a lot of bargain hunting scone fanatics out there. But I also know that many of you are ‘scone curious,’ and would love to support Mary.”

“If you fall in the second category, I’ve put together a special offer for you. For $30 you can get an order of scones, and a limited-edition drawing from Mary’s daughter Erinn. (Depending on the amount of orders, the drawing might not be highly intricate. A lassie’s gotta do her homework.),” he added. “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 the time.”

This nice gesture changed Mary’s life.

Humans of New York updated followers of Mary’s story, writing, “Over $1,000,000 worth of soda bread scones were sold.”

They added, “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.”

The account explained that because of the overwhelming amount of orders, scones would be delivered as fast as she can.

Humans of New York lastly added, “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.”

Related Stories