SASKATOON — With a mission to provide trusted, biblically based resources and products that help individuals to know, love, and serve God, Universal Church Supplies in Saskatoon has been owned and operated by Gerry and Lisa Holst for 20 years.
The Holsts opened the doors to their retail venture at the urging of Lisa’s aunt and uncle, who own a sister store in Edmonton and mentored them along the way.
“It’s not something we ever expected to do,” said Lisa. Gerry had a printing business at the time, and Lisa was a former teacher and stay-at-home mother. “Neither of us had any retail experience, so it was a big change.”
With encouragement from family and recognizing that the store would be filling a need in the community, the Holsts stepped out in faith. “When the opportunity came, we were ready for it,” said the couple.
While the primary focus of Universal Church Supplies is to serve the Catholic community in and around Saskatoon, the reach of the store is broader than that.
“We serve all churches with liturgical needs,” Lisa explained. “The store is ecumenical. We carry things for all Christian communities.”
Through their interactions with customers, the couple have learned the nuances that exist among different denominations.
“I think we’ve become sensitive to the different worship styles of various faith traditions,” said Gerry. “We try to provide everyone with what they need.”
Beyond the opportunity to become immersed in the wider Catholic and ecumenical communities, owning and operating the store has strengthened their marriage.
“It’s nice getting to work together,” said Lisa. “We each bring different gifts and strengths to the business. We work well collaboratively.”
As business owners, the couple have noticed trends and experienced industry challenges over the years.
“Online shopping has affected us,” Lisa noted, “but I think the advantage of (the store) is that people can come in, hold a book, and look at it before they make a purchase.”
The Holsts take special care to the make the atmosphere of the store one of peace and welcome.
“We see it as a ministry,” she continued. “When people come into the store, we try to help them find what they need to grow and explore their faith. It’s a blessing to walk with people as they journey.”
“As a local business, we really appreciate the support from all of the customers and churches,” said Gerry. “We are here to be a resource and we welcome the opportunity to serve.
For more information, see www.ucssask.com.