WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Curtis Stang appreciates the added space in Universal Church Supplies' new showroom.
Universal Church Supplies has been in Edmonton for about 40 years, and for the last 30 at the same downtown location – until now.
The family-owned and operated company, which sells everything from candles and crucifixes to giftware and jewelry, has recently opened at its new location (9527-41 Ave.) in a light industrial area just a couple of blocks off Whitemud Drive. The new store officially opened Feb. 3.
Owner Curtis Stang said the store shared its downtown location with its landlord, who needed more space for his own offices and staff. They had a good family-to-family relation between them, but the landlord made the difficult decision to bid them farewell so he could use the space.
While Stang, who has owned the store since 2006, felt comfortable in the old location, he is focused on the positives of the new store.
"We have more space in our new showroom. We want to make it new and exciting, of course, but we also want it to feel familiar because we've had lots of feedback from customers over the years who feel comfortable and relaxed when they spend time in here," said Stang.
The biggest changes at the new location are the more efficient workspaces in the backroom, including an office for his wife Tracy, and considerably more storage for inventory.
To help manage the bigger shipments, they now have loading docks, which the old location did not. Parking in the area is free and plentiful, which is yet another advantage over the previous store.
Cherylyn Shewchuk was familiar with the old store, shopping there for more than 15 years. But she called the new location a definite step up.
"It's more convenient for me to get to, easy to find and I love the space. The other store was a bit crowded, and hard to get to sometimes," said Shewchuk, who shops for a variety of items, including Baptism gifts, birthday cards and statues.
What appeals to her the most about the store?
"It's the atmosphere. It's calming, it's quiet and the people here are wonderful. They make every effort to help you out," she said.
Rev. Sheila Hagen-Bloxham of St. Augustine Anglican Parish, a Newman Theological College graduate, was a loyal customer at the previous location. She will continue shopping at the new store due to the availability of items that otherwise cannot be found locally, such as ordination cards suitable for women.
"This is one of the few places where one can buy any semi-Anglican materials. I've bought vestments and clergy shirts and gifts and materials for teaching," said Hagen-Bloxham.
A south side resident, she says the new location is easier for her to access.
"Today I'm here because I am doing an Epiphany course on people who have gone to the very end for the building up of the kingdom, which is the theme of the Epiphany," she said.
From Amazon, she tried to order DVDs about C.S. Lewis and Thomas Merton. However, the order would not be shipped until the end of February. So she went to Universal Church Supplies in search of something appropriate, perhaps a film on Merton or St. Philip Neri.
A significant percentage of the sales at Universal Church Supplies are to local churches. But the walk-in customers and loyal patrons are also important.
"We buy a few items there, mainly special candles for our Advent wreath and for our Christmas Eve candlelight service," said Lisa Hart, who lives and works in south Edmonton.
As coordinator of Early Childhood Ministries at Ellerslie Road Baptist Church, she said the new store is more convenient.
From customers, Stang has heard mixed reviews. For some people, downtown was ideal.
He admitted the search for the perfect home was not simple. He had a checklist of wants and needs, and this new location checked off a lot of the boxes.
"Our number one concern is our clientele and how they are going to react," said Stang. "We've worked really hard just to get the message out. We've had at least four to five months of campaigning."
Stang compliments his staff for "answering the call. We knew this was going to be a big project, and everyone rolled up their sleeves and dug in. There's been a good spirit about this."
The grand opening sale will be Feb. 25 to March 1.