Can St. Anthony help namesake bookstore find lost business?
FORT WORTH — Catholics around the world call on St. Anthony when they’ve misplaced something, hoping he’ll render aid in retrieving the lost object. The Franciscan friar is also the patron saint of lost people, some of whom amble into the Fort Worth bookstore that bears his name.
Mary Myers, the owner of St. Anthony’s Church Supplies and Stella Maris Books, said people often wander into the store “who are searching for faith. They come in to look at the books and statues. They want to learn how the Catholic Church works or how to pray the Rosary.”
For some lapsed Catholics or Catholic curious, stepping into the south Fort Worth bookstore is a safe place to test the waters of the faith. Crossing the threshold of a Catholic church for the duration of a Mass might be intimidating, but stepping into a store for a few minutes may fit within their comfort zone. They can ask questions of Myers or her two employees, or just browse the books while listening to peaceful music or the Rosary recited in the background.
The bookstore also helps practicing Catholics stay strong in their faith, said Myers, with artwork, sacramental gifts, music, and teaching resources.
Myers welcomes individuals, whether they are committed Catholics or just curious. She said, “Meeting all these nice people and helping them either stay strong in their faith or get back to their faith is the best part of my job.”
As with all nonessential retailers, St. Anthony’s had to close on March 24 when Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price issued a stay-at-home order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Myers said the timing, just three weeks before Easter, was particularly challenging. Usually, candidates and catechumens enter the Church at Easter, and many children receive their first Holy Communion in the following weeks. “It’s normally our busy time of year, and business is really down,” said the St. Patrick parishioner.
The store continued to fill orders through its website and via phone calls during the shutdown. When Governor Greg Abbott lifted the shelter-in-place restriction, the store added in-person sales again on May 4.
Customers are beginning to come back, Myers observed. “People tell us they are glad we are here, and they thank us for being here. I think that as the year goes on, it will get closer to normal.”
During the economic uncertainty, Myers said she has been “leaning on God more and learning to trust more. It’s been good in that way.”
Along with trust comes hope that business will resume. “We have been purchasing things in anticipation of the regular schedule [of sacraments]. It will happen,” Myers said.
Not the first hurdle
In its 46 years in operation, the bookstore has overcome other obstacles.
Myers’ mother-in-law, Edith Myers, started Stella Maris Books and Gifts from her home in Houston in 1974.
In addition to selling books and gifts to individuals, the business began a mail-order catalog used by hundreds of churches across the country to order church supplies.
Within a few years, Edith and one of her sons, Richard, took the business to the Baptist stronghold of Waco and opened a storefront. Noting that many of their customers came from the Metroplex, they decided to move to Fort Worth in 1981. Cue St. Anthony.
According to family lore, Edith and Richard took a scouting trip for a Fort Worth location. While his mother shopped at a now-defunct department store at Berry Street and McCart Avenue, Richard, feeling a bit lost, stood outside and prayed to St. Anthony that he would help them find an appropriate site. When he turned around and saw a storefront for lease, he knew St. Anthony had answered his prayer. St. Anthony’s Church Supplies and Stella Maris Books remained in that location for 31 years, until the building was slated to be demolished.
St. Anthony also played a role in the business’ next move. On the saint’s feast day — June 13 — of 2012, the bookstore moved into its current location on Trail Lake Drive.
The relocation was difficult, conceded Myers, because many of their previous customers assumed the store had gone out of business. It took almost a year for revenue to recover.
Mary became the sole owner of the bookstore upon Richard’s death in 2016. Edith, the founder, had died in 2001.
Like most retailers, St. Anthony’s bookstore was dealt a blow by the coronavirus pandemic. The economic fallout was unforeseen and had a devastating impact on sales.
Myers’ trust in God helps her cope with the uncertainty of running the 46-year-old business, but she’s certain the business will endure. If St. Anthony helps the lost, surely he can intercede for help with lost business, too.