Gastonia Catholic bookstore celebrates 10th anniversary
GASTONIA — Tucked away in a small shopping center off of New Hope Road in Gastonia, Mary's Garden Catholic Books and Gifts has been quietly thriving for the past 10 years. September marks the first decade of Bruce and Marilyn Putman's endeavor to serve their local Catholic community.
The Putmans are from Lawrenceville, Ga., but relocated to Gastonia in 2000 because of Bruce Putman's work. They were surprised to find that although there was a strong Catholic presence in the area, there was no Catholic store or shop nearby. Marilyn Putman feels she was called to start the store, recalling a moment during Mass where she felt and heard God call out to her, and His encouragement to "feed my sheep." She said, "When God calls you, you answer," affirming that their endeavor is not something they sought for money or for the love of business – but because they believe they can perform a real service for those in need of inspiration, information or just some friendly conversation.
Pictured: Marilyn and Bruce Putman are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their bookstore in Gastonia, which they see is their ministry to educate and inspire Catholics. (Morgan Castillo | Catholic News Herald)
Their store started in a 400-square-foot shop. As the cost of rent there went up, however, the Putmans were forced to begin looking for a new place. They were facing major financial difficulties, as Bruce Putman had been let go by his company, and a new shop would require more money than they had. The outlook was not promising, but God had plans for the Putmans.
As God brings good out of every sorrow, the passing of Marilyn Putman's mother provided a small sum that allowed them to purchase a new store location and move forward with their store, which they call "an apostolate, a labor of love ... you don't do this for earnings," as Bruce Putman said. The Putmans took "a leap of faith," and used the inheritance to pay for the new shop – a small, humble, but welcoming and full-to-the-brim store which they know is a way for them to serve their community and the Church.
Of their customers, the Putmans note that they get "all kinds." They recall a customer from several years ago who came in about "two or three times a month," to sit in the store, read and ask the Putmans questions about the faith.
"She wound up joining the Church," Bruce Putman said. "We help people on their journey, no matter where they are. That's the most important: sharing the faith, feeding the sheep," said Marilyn Putman.
Many people visit in search of baptism, first Communion or confirmation gifts, as well as sacred art, books, gifts and various accessories. The Putmans are always willing to go the extra mile for whoever passes through their door, often searching for the right item and always ordering from other vendors when needed.
Bruce Putman noted, "You never know whose life you might touch, and we understand that now after 10 years, you never know who is coming in that door, and what they need, and how we might help them."
— Morgan Castillo, correspondent
Check out the store
Visit Mary's Garden's website, www.marysgardencatholicbooksandgifts.com, or call 704-823-7244.