Catholic store, kiosk ready for Christmas shoppers

Jeff Campbell, president and chief executive officer of Vesuvius Press, hopes his new store fills a void of Catholic gift shops in the area and becomes a long-term tenant at Paradise Valley Mall. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN) Jeff Campbell, president and chief executive officer of Vesuvius Press, hopes his new store fills a void of Catholic gift shops in the area and becomes a long-term tenant at Paradise Valley Mall. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Jeff Campbell, president and chief executive officer of Vesuvius Press, hopes his new store fills a void of Catholic gift shops in the area and becomes a long-term tenant at Paradise Valley Mall. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Black Friday and the traditional Christmas shopping season doesn’t have to be a secular, commercial affair.

Shoppers at Paradise Valley Mall can find Christmas gifts straight from Bethlehem at a temporary kiosk plus Catholic books, coffee and other gift items at a new store that the owner hopes becomes permanent.

Vesuvius Press opened a 2,200-square-foot retail storefront on All Saints Day near Dillard’s in the mall. Santa and his elves conveniently sit steps away from the Catholic-owned store.

Jeff Campbell, president and chief executive officer, said the lease is good through the end of February 2015, but hopes to remain at the mall if customer demand allows it.

“Vote with your wallets and your prayers,” Campbell quipped.

Vesuvius Press began as Tau Publishing in 2002, but took a broader focus earlier this year to allow for Catholic material that wasn’t specifically Franciscan. The store carries a variety of books for children, teenagers and adults. Some are made in-house. Others were bought from publishers and now have another avenue to reach customers.

Deep discounts plus seasonal items including Nativity sets, Advent wreaths and statues lure customers in. They might get a sample of chocolate made by Our Lady of Mississippi Abbey before they leave, even if they didn’t buy anything. Vesuvius Press sells their chocolates plus Mystic Monk coffee.

Lori McChesney and a fellow shopper poked their heads in Nov. 21 even though they weren’t Catholic.

“We were curious about the store. It’s very unique,” McChesney said.

Campbell chose Paradise Valley mall for Vesuvius Press because the area lacks a nearby Catholic store. Some parishes have gift shops, but their hours are very limited, he said. Hours at Vesuvius Press mirror those at the mall.

Campbell offered free book promotions with 15-20 surrounding parishes — with 10 percent returning to the parish — and similar discounts to some Catholic apostolates. The free book promotion extends to Catholic Sun readers who mention this article.

Near the other side of Paradise Valley Mall by American Eagle Outfitters sits a kiosk with additional Catholic gifts. Khaled Hannoona is the artist and agent at the Bethlehem Gift Shop. Many of his wood-carved crosses have soil, stone, frankincense and olive leaves from the Holy Land embedded in them. The kiosk also carries wood-carved scenes such as the Nativity and the Last Supper. Shoppers at Metrocenter Mall and Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe will find a similar kiosk.

Both Hannoona and Campbell said business has been decent, but expect it to steadily increase as Christmas draws near.
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