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So You Want to Open a Catholic Store? (Part I)

Okay, so for some reason you have an urge to open your own store. Before you invest one dollar in products or designing a logo or even coming up with a name, there are many, many things you are going to need to do.

First, figure out why you want to open the store.

If you want to open a store because the Holy Spirit gave you the inspiration, that's admirable but you have to remember two things:

  1. The Holy Spirit is not a business man and isn't going to infuse you with the knowledge to run a successful business.
  2. The Holy Spirit is not going to bail you out when your failure to apply sound business principles to your business leads to its demise.

If you want to run a store because you think it will make you rich, you're in the wrong business. While it is possible to make a living and possibly a very nice living at a Catholic store, if this is just a way to get rich, your business is going to whither and die because you aren't in it for the right reasons and people can tell.

If you want to open a store to fight your bishop or your priest, go find a less expensive way to do it. Opening a store to start a fight isn't Christian and will only lead to problems.


If you want to open a store to spread the Faith and educate Catholics, you've go the right reason but you still have to remember that you are running a business. You also have to remember that spreading the Faith means spreading THE Faith and not the various flavors you find passing themselves off as the Faith these days. If you are afraid to present the Faith, don't open a store.

So now that you have figured out what your reasons are for opening the store and that they are valid, it's time for step two.

It's time to get out your pencil and paper and do some research. Here are some things you are going to need to figure out:

  1. How many parishes are in your town? If you are in a major city, I would think about how many are within 10 miles of where you want to open.
  2. How many Catholics are in your town?
  3. How many other stores supply Catholic products in your town? Remember, the other stores may not all be Catholic.
  4. Where are the parishes in your town? I recommend getting a map of the city and marking their locations so you can see where they are. You will probably want to consider positioning your store between two or three of them.
  5. What is the climate of the Faith in your town? If the general attitude is like Los Angeles, you are going to have to acknowledge that you aren't going to get support from the parishes or the bishop and local Catholics will likely badmouth your business. If the Faith is growing and people are enthusiastic about it, you will have a much easier time getting established.

Here are the answers that we came up with when answering these questions.

  1. There are 34 parishes in our diocese, 11 of which are in Colorado Springs and within the distance we considered acceptable to consider.
  2. There are 125,000 Catholics in our diocese but our diocese is a sprawling place that stretches north to Denver and over the mountains to the west.
  3. When we opened, there were three other Catholic stores in town and several Family Christian bookstores and the massive Focus on the Family bookstore. Family Christian stores carry a very small selection of Catholic products. Two of the Catholic stores were located in malls and focused on gifts and the oldest store is downtown with a variety of books and gifts. The stores were all under 2000 square feet of retail space and none of them promoted themselves as specializing in carrying products faithful to the Faith.
  4. We situated our store on the main road running through Colorado Springs within three miles of the largest parish in the city and within five miles of two other parishes.
  5. Colorado Springs is undergoing a rebirth of interest in the Faith thanks to our new bishop and a generation of Catholics who are young, faithful and enthusiastic about being Catholic.

Based on our answer, we concluded that Colorado Springs could support another Catholic store if we did a couple of things.

  1. Focus on orthodox Catholic books and educational material and let people know that's what our focus was.
  2. Locate in an area away from the other stores but near some of the larger parishes.

Next - What to do once you have decided that opening a store makes sense.

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{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Eric Wilson June 9, 2006, 11:50 am

    I opened gift and bookstore 4 years ago. Market research is the key. You listed several good points. I found masstimes.org and our archdiosican website invaluable in the research. Masstimes.org gave me a parish location map and the archdiosican website had info on numbers of families at each parish. They(the numbers) were different than what I would have guessed, so don’t guesse.
    In terms of competition, I didn’t worry too much about the local christian store. They had a very poor selection of Catholic stuff and closed shop about three months after I opened. I was concerned about taking some business away from a local drugstore that carries Catholic items like statues and first communion items. It is owned by a prominant local Catholic family. I had no qualms though after seeing the patron saints statue display 15 feet from the condom display and 25 feet from the pharmacy counter where they distibute birth control pills and the like.
    Another point that was valuable for me was “offstreet” parking. People, especially older people, which will be a large part of business, like easy access parking lots. They also like a location that is in close proximity to places they normally go anyway, like the grocery store or their parish.

  • david corry September 17, 2007, 4:20 pm

    Have been praying about this dream the Lord gave me. Need more ideas, but those on the blog have been helpful. Going to chamber of commerce to see about laws and permits I might need. Really need captial. Could run it out of home for awhile till it grows and can pay store front rent. Not quitting job to run this yet, but that is a goal a long way down the road. Thanks for more to think about.

  • tomfantasia November 12, 2007, 8:23 am

    We are taking over a local Catholic bookstore that has been in business for 20 years. Does anyone have any recommendations on POS systems and software? We’re also starting the web store. Currently the store is using Bookstore Manager, and it seems to be well thought out. I’m wondering what others are using.

    BTW, I’d like to validate the articles on why people shouldn’t shop in your store and tips on how to improve your store – we came up with almost identical lists independently without seeing the ones posted. About 98% of the items applied to this store!

  • Albert November 22, 2009, 6:56 pm

    I would really love to open a Catholic bookstore in San Antonio for the aforementioned reasons. I don’t have a degree in business, but a love to propagate the Faith. What is a ballpark figure as to how much you would spend up front to purchase your inventory, rent, advertising, etc? I know each city would differ, especially on rent and advertising, but a ballpark figure would be great.

  • Rodrick Purves March 31, 2010, 11:45 am

    I walked on a prolife catholic pilgramage across America, and along the west coast. US 1. I have a front row pew as to the delapitation of the understanding of our faith. I am seeking to find the financing and suport to open a catholic book store inorder to continue to share about our Blessed mother, and the way of our Lord Jesus. I served twenty two years sea service USN and I am a cradle Catholic. I serve our Lord, his holy preists, and bishops best as posiable. Seeking info. thank you Rod Purves

  • Mike March 7, 2011, 1:35 am

    I would really love to open a Catholic bookstore in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I don’t have much business skills, but a love to propagate the Faith. What is a ballpark figure as to how much you would spend up front to purchase your inventory, rent, advertising, etc?

    • Ian March 7, 2011, 8:49 am

      Without knowing anything about the local economy, prices for product, labor to construct a store and prices for shelving, etc. Coming up with a price is really impossible.

  • Madonna Castro October 17, 2011, 7:33 pm

    Our parish is exploring the possibility of opening a small gift shop. What will permits are required to start operating one?

  • Rachel M.Montemayor October 21, 2011, 5:23 pm

    I want to open a Catholic store to evangelize. I have to travel over 25 miles to purchase my gifts and Catholic books and materials. I am putting this in prayer. God bless.

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