What started as a small operation at St. Andrew’s Parish in Victoria has become a major supplier and wholesaler of Catholic goods on the Lower Mainland.
About 36 years ago Marguerite Rocheleau was struggling to find religious gifts for her nieces and nephews but found there were not many stores selling Catholic goods. It was then that her husband, Ron, decided they should open up a gift and book store. He had grown tired of his work in hospitality management and was looking to start up his own business.
That is how St. Andrew’s Church Supply was born.
“That is why it is called St. Andrew’s,” Ron explained. “Because we started at St. Andrew’s Parish.”
“Our daughter was just eight months old at the time,” Marguerite explained, adding that Ron’s mother often helped them out by babysitting.
Within two years they had expanded from the parish into two different stores.
They have both been surprised by the growth and by how welcoming the communities have been to their store.
Marguerite said that they began getting more and more orders from the Lower Mainland. So they decided to move to Vancouver, closing their stores in Victoria.
Marguerite and Ron see their business as a ministry. Over the years they have expanded it to include selling supplies to churches all over Canada and the United States.
“It’s a much bigger operation than most people think,” Ron said.
“The wholesale part of the business pays for the other part,” Marguerite explained, adding that it would be difficult to keep the business running if they were just a book and gift store.
St. Andrew’s employs about eight other staff members, and both Ron and Marguerite are still fully engaged with the store. Ron makes deliveries to customers while Marguerite oversees the store operations. It is a team effort.
“All our employees are really good, really trustworthy,” Marguerite said.
Many of their employees have been with the company for a long time.
“One of our employees, who was with us for 20 years, we sent her and her family to Florida for a vacation,” Marguerite said. That employee is still with them and nearing the 30-year mark at St. Andrew’s.
“She has been dropping hints about it,” said Marguerite, smiling.
The couple said one of the most rewarding parts of the last three decades has been talking with others about Catholicism and witnessing some conversions.
“We hope this business will be a light,” Marguerite said.
Over the years, they have been a witness to non-Catholic Christians, some of whom have since become Catholic.
“There was an Anglican priest who came in and would buy books and things from us,” Ron explained.
“There is one woman who comes in and always says, ‘I want to learn more.’ So, I will suggest some books for her,” Marguerite said.
On March 1 of this year, the couple moved their store for the fourth time. They now operate out of Burnaby and have closed their Vancouver location.
Since their move, they have heard from many customers that the new location is better.
“They say, ‘I never liked going into Vancouver,’” Ron explained. “I understand that. It used to take me an hour to get back home.”
Now they live just a block away.
“That’s not why we moved, though,” he said.
In addition to their move, the couple has decided to upgrade their technology. The change consumes a lot of their time.
As for the future, neither is eager to leave, but they both know they can’t continue to run the store forever.
“We have been very blessed here,” Marguerite said. “We just hope that the Lord will bring someone that will keep the store going.”
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