SOUTHINGTON — A local religious supply store has moved to online sales but will remain present at its West Street location for pick-up.
The owners of Patrick Baker & Sons, launched in the 1950s, said strictly online sales gave the store greater reach and responded to changing demographics.
The store at 1650 West St. was owned by founders Pat and Patricia Baker. They passed away and the store is now run by family members. In January, the owners decided to sell the building but to rent the basement from the new owner for the operation of their warehouse. They no longer have a showroom.
“The retail and wholesale showroom was nearly 8,000 square feet,” said David Threlkeld, the store’s chief operating officer. “With the advent of churches slowing down and changes in people’s shopping habits and COVID, it became an unsustainable pattern to keep this open when we had an internet presence.”
Threlkeld is married to company president Mary Baker. His sister Maureen Kelly is the vice president of the company.
The store sells Catholic religious supplies such as banners, altar cloths, office attire, Bibles, rosaries, and first communion gifts. For the store’s wholesale business, the owners launched www.churchgoods.com. For retail customers they have www.churchgoodsgifts.com.
A drop in church attendance led to a drop in local walk-in sales, Threlkeld said. The shift to online shopping has helped create a global market and sustain the business.
“As our local market shrinks, our global reach has grown,” Threlkeld said. “Before, we kind of only worked around Connecticut, New England. But thanks to the Internet, we ship products to the Far East, to the West Indies, we receive retail orders from all over North America.
Customers looking for help with the company’s inventory of over 20,000 items can also call 860-863-4037. Items can be shipped or picked up in store.
The decision to close the showroom was necessary, Threlkeld said, but not entirely easy.
“There is always an emotional decision, a bit like swapping the steam engine for the diesel locomotive,” he said. “You have to go in the direction the trade takes you. The world changes.
Brian Gilbert owns Apostle Store, a Christian gift shop on Spring Street. He said there was still room for a physical location, especially when people were buying gifts.
“That’s what we hear a lot about,” Gilbert said. “They want to come and smell and touch, enjoy the atmosphere.”
He has stayed away from most books, movies, and music, as a lot of those are purchased online. Instead, Gilbert began hosting events, such as paint parties, to attract people to his home.
[email protected]: @JBuchananRJ