RACINE — It seemed like the end of an era when Larry Jansen announced on Facebook that the Racine Marian Center, for 30 years a volunteer-run Catholic spiritual and fine gifts store, would begin a going-out-of-business sale.
And then, for Racine septuagenarians Patrick and Patricia Shay, divine intervention happened.
Walking in the door with the intention of simply picking up some bargains, they walked out as the new owners, and
“My wife and I just happened to stop at the store one day because we had heard they had a big sale on,” Patrick Shay recalled. “Until we stopped by we were not aware that it was a closeout, going out of business sale.
My wife and I had been looking for something to do in retirement so we approached the owner … we walked out the door with the keys.”
Added Patricia: “It wasn’t meant to close. It was meant to stay open, especially in this day and age with everything going on in the world. People need this.”
Located in Sturtevant for a decade before moving 20 years ago to its present location at 3724 21st St., ownership transferred to the Shays on June 28. The restocked and remodeled Marian Center opened on Aug. 15.
‘We put our hearts in here’
For the Shays, longtime members of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, 6400 Spring St., Mount Pleasant, coming out of retirement yet again can hardly be called work. To them, it’s more of a calling to assist area Catholics and non-Catholics alike in nurturing and growing their Christian faith.
“We’re always had a strong faith – we put our hearts in here,” Patricia said. “We meet a lot of nice people here. We’re very, very happy.”
Adds Patrick, “You hear all these bad things about how nobody believes in our Lord anymore. We see a whole different side of it. You’d be amazed at how many people are really remarkable about keeping the faith.”
Particularly encouraging for the Shays is the opportunity to lead people back to their faith, recalling a long-lapsed Catholic woman who serendipitously walked into the store last month.
Recalled Patrick: “When that gal walked out she had a Bible, a rosary, and a pamphlet that we give away free for how to say the rosary … anytime you can help somebody it’s a blessing.”
The personal touch
Offering wide array of Catholic and non-denominational Christian books, music CD’s, holy cards, greeting cards, and religious art, décor, jewelry and fine gifts, the store also features growing specialty sections dedicated to children and Racine’s growing Hispanic community. Gift certificates are available, and Christmas items are beginning to arrive.
“In each section we try to feature something that we think somebody will be interested in,” Patrick said.
Shay is a believer that brick-and-mortar independent retailers still have an important role to play.
“You get a personal touch here that you don’t get on the internet,” he said, adding that the in-store experience also allows customers to much more fully examine merchandise before making an informed purchase, an experience that’s difficult to replicate online.
For the Shays, the feedback from customers since the store’s reopening has been heartening.
“People love the store and they tell others about it,” Patricia said.
Adds Patrick: “People are very happy and have thanked us for reopening the store and not letting it close. It’s very rewarding.”
Among those welcoming the revival and reopening is Racine resident Catherine Kantowski, a 25-year customer of the Marian Center.
“I think my prayers have been answered,” Kantowski said as she shopped Thursday afternoon.
Marian Center hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
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