Emmett Woods moved to America in 1985 after growing up in County Tyrone, Ireland, landing in the Bronx.
It was in the Bronx he met his wife and they started a family. Eventually they moved to New Jersey, but were still looking for somewhere to raise their four children and decided upon Pearl River, moving to Rockland in 1995.
“We were looking for someone new to raise the kids, somewhere with a good Irish community,” Woods said. “We started coming to the [Rockland County St. Patrick’s Day] Parade in 1990 and saw how great the Irish community was here in Pearl River. We wanted to raise our kids as close to Irish culture as we could get.”
Woods worked in the construction business and two years ago opened a restaurant and bar, Emmett’s Castle at Blue Hill, which is located at the Blue Hill Golf Course.
This year, Woods will be honored at the very same parade, as the Rockland County Ancient Order of Hibernians' Businessman of the Year.
“I was very excited that I was considered,” he said. “It could’ve been a lot of other candidates. It’s very personal for me that they thought of honoring me.”
Woods is a big fan of the parade, and marches in it each year.
“It keeps our Irish heritage alive,” he said. “It’s very well run. It’s done very professional, and you can know that by the size of the crowds that come to watch it.”
Woods wasn’t sure why he was selected as businessman of the year, noting they are many other worthy business owners in Rockland, but thought it might have something to do with his work in the community. He was the chairman of the Rockland Gaelic Athletic Association for five years and is still involved in the organization as an officer.
In the past, he was included in a group that secured funds for the GAA to purchase fields, and then again in a group that completed a major renovation of those fields.
Woods has also worked with St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the New York Special Olympics. Last year he participated in the "Freezin' for a Reason" plunge at Sharp Reservation in Fishkill to raise funds for the New York Special Olympics, and he donated proceeds from his New Year’s Eve event to Special Olympics as well.
Woods said he tries to promote Irish heritage at his own restaurant by hosting weekly traditional Irish music sessions, where people can stop by and participate in a jam. Woods also sometimes brings music acts in on Sunday to perform at the events. Emmett's Castle will feature performers Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday this week, with St. Patrick's Day pub trivia Thursday.
“To see Irish heritage promoted so well so far from Ireland is great,” Woods said. “The AOH is a very well recognized group and do a lot of great things for the community. I’d suggest anyone is thinking of joining actually join.”