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Keeping the Faith

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Keeping the Faith: Racine Marian Center

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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

happily so.

“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.

Positive feedback
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.

For more information, call 262-634-1208, email or visit the Racine Marian Center on Facebook or at


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1 thought on “Keeping the Faith”

  1. Some might wonder why I would go on my own web sight to post a comment?
    I think that maybe it’s important to sometimes just to step back and reflect on where my wife and I started and where we are right now and how we got to this point. We have met a lot of wonderful people over the last 18 months to two years. We have even developed some friendships with our fine customers. This space isn’t big enough to begin naming names but too those loyal people I take my hat off and I say thank you for your support. To our growing group of new customers who are beginning to find us I say thank you as well and hopefully your numbers will continue to grow. Any small business needs and relies on loyal customers but in my way of looking at it we must never take you for granted and we must acknowledge you and thank you often. So look for this to be a regular thing here because I plan on using this space to talk to our customers about what I think is important to them and to keep in touch. May God Bless each of you. Patrick Shay/Patricia Shay

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