Bridget and I exchanged a few Facebook messages to arrange for our phone call this week. I asked her if we could chat around 1:45 pm and her answer was “I’m in a harness till 3:30 but anytime after that will work.”
**Gulp.** I admit I blushed a bit as my mind wandered….
Alas, she is no exotic harness-hanging lady of the evening, but rather a bad-ass moped-driving welder with Ironworkers Local Union 7. And a volunteer soccer coach. And owner of the quintessential South Boston shop, “Southie’s Own.”
Thirty-six year old lifelong G street resident Bridget Nee-Walsh is a trained artist with degrees from the Montserrat School of Art in Beverly, MA and the Burren College of Art in Ireland. She also maintains an art studio in King Terminal where she makes children’s toy boxes and paints portraits and landscapes.
One of 6 kids, growing up she and her two sisters worked a pushcart at Faneuil Hall that sold imported Irish items. After Bridget moved back from Ireland she realized that there was a market here in Southie for all things authentically Irish, especially since Jones’ department store had closed. So a few years back she opened “Southie’s Own” in a small storefront on West Broadway.
“We lost all the mom and pop shops that used to cater to us Southie residents and those who had once lived here and moved away, but still had great pride in their roots. Currently we stock a ton of baby items, traditional Irish knits, scally caps, novelty headbands, and Southie pride items. March is our high season so we are looking forward to a busy month.”
CIS: So how does a nice Irish Catholic girl like you become one of the 2% of women welders in Local 7? (Author’s note there are 3500 welders in Local 7 and only 2% are women.)
“Ha – well after moving back from Ireland I was a nanny to 5 kids, no paid vacation, no pension, no healthcare. My boyfriend at the time was a union carpenter and I thought, ‘I can do that!’ I applied to the Carpenter’s union but there were no openings, so I tried the Iron Workers. I learned welding at art school in my sculpture classes, so I was kind of a natural. Ten years later I have steady work, benefits and I work all over the city. Today I wrapped up work at Millennium Place, the newest and tallest residential building in Boston.”
CIS: Is it challenging running a business and working full time?
“Yes and no. I have a HUGE family and tremendous support. My sister runs the shop most days till I am done around 3 pm. Honestly I worry most about the skyrocketing rents. I was so upset to learn what happened to Murphy’s Jewelry. I was about to offer him counter space at my shop till I heard he found a new site. Broadway is not Newbury Street – we need to keep it affordable for people to run a business here.”
CIS: You’ve lived in South Boston for 36 years. What strikes you about life in Southie these days?
“Real estate is insane. I feel sorry for people who love it here but simply cannot afford to buy and can no longer afford the rents. Three-decker houses are being developed into 6 unit buildings. I think it’s too much. There are more amenities here for dogs than there are for kids!”
CIS: Favorite place to eat?
“Rondos. No argument.”
CIS: Drinks with the girls?
“Seapoint. Good food, reasonably priced, a true local favorite.”
CIS: Favorite spots in Southie?
“I’d be kicked out of my family if I didn’t say Castle Island – so many memories of being there as we all grew up. And Dorchester Heights – it’s my back yard. And it’s so majestic when it is lit up at night. My backyard is a National Park. How cool is that?”
Go visit Southie’s Own at 396 West Broadway this month, mention this article and receive 10% off your entire purchase. Shop local!