Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: John Paul II admirers express affection through pocketbooks

Inside Garson & Sons religious goods shop on San Mateo Boulevard Northeast, 61-year-old Grace Gutierrez picked up a tiny cardboard box and excitedly shook out a set of rosary beads and a book covered with a picture of the recently deceased pope.

“I love his teachings,” she said. “I love my faith.”

The $22.95 book-and-rosary-beads combo was a small portion of almost $600 in papal memorabilia that Gutierrez purchased Wednesday as a way to remember Pope John Paul II, whom she admired for his integrity, inclusiveness and respect for young people.

“He stood by what he preached,” she said. “He was a very good pope.”

Gutierrez was not alone in expressing her affection with her wallet. Local merchants selling papal videos, books, pictures, dolls, keychains, prayer cards, coins and crucifixes said the memorabilia is going faster than they can keep it stocked.

“We’ve already sold hundreds and hundreds of books,” said Paul Garson, owner of Garson & Sons. “It’s been quite amazing.”

Demand is so high for papal items that Garson’s distributors have told him repeatedly they’re out of what he wants, he said.

About 100 of the book-and-rosary-beads packages sold out in two or three days, he said. Before the pope’s death, he estimated it would have taken about a year to sell the same quantity.

“I think it (the pope’s death) has just reinvigorated interest in the papacy and all that culture and tradition,” Garson said. “They (customers) want to own a piece of history by owning an image.”

Garson expects revenues for his three shops – two in Albuquerque and one in Santa Fe – to get a 5 percent to 10 percent bump because of the papal memorabilia sales.

Another religious goods business has felt a similar surge at its two Albuquerque shops.

Print and film biographies of the pope have been some of the most popular items at Angels and Saints and Ave Maria, said Alyson Cupps, district manager of the two shops.

She estimated the biography sales were 45 percent higher than in the past.

Books written by the pope have also proved extremely popular – a 25 percent to 30 percent boost there, she said.

“Any time there’s a serious time of crisis like 9/11, or if there’s the death of somebody like the pope, the sales always go up a little bit because more people are looking for more information on how to get through that,” Cupps said.

For Gutierrez, prayer cards, pictures and books by and about the pope will help keep her memory of him fresh, a task she said gets more difficult as she gets older.

“The memory goes,” she said. “These are reminders.”

And $600 for papal memorabilia – to be spread among herself, friends and family – wasn’t too much to spend, she said.

“That, to me,” she said, “is nothing compared to what he’s done for all of us.”

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