Sheri Ramirez believes in omens and prayers.
Nearly 17 years ago, as she and her husband were talking about opening Sacred Heart Gifts, they went out for Chinese food.
“This was in my fortune cookie,” Ramirez said, pulling out a blown-up version of the fortune she received that day. “ ‘Pray for what you want, but work for the things you need.’ That’s kind of been my motto.”
Earlier this year, she talked to her accountant about the future of the shop, then prayed. Not long afterward, Margie Cartwright, who is known in the Catholic community for her custom-made rosaries, asked Ramirez to take over her business.
“She said, ‘I want somebody who’ll be dedicated to the customers and to the rosary and to the Catholic faith,’ ” Ramirez said. “I needed something and she needed something.”
Ramirez, a former preschool teacher, opened the store to serve her fellow Catholics.
“I don’t want to say ‘calling,’ but I told my husband I was going to do it,” she said.
The 1,000-square-foot store is neatly filled with everything from medals, Bibles and baptismal gowns to coffee mugs, calendars and glow-in-the-dark statues of saints. “Kids love those,” she said.
All four of her sons have worked at the store, and now her 14-year-old granddaughter, Kelly, does as well.
“She goes to Catholic school. She knows the merchandise,” Ramirez said.
She said there are trends in the sacred gift business just as there are in any other industry. For instance, sales of religious music plummeted as more people downloaded it from the Internet.
She finds herself explaining scapulars and some other merchandise to younger customers – items that older Catholics “were familiar with and knew well.”
The period leading up to Easter is among her busiest times of the year because it’s also a time of upcoming confirmations and First Communion rites.
And the ascension of a new pope, Francis, has prompted an immediate demand for medals and other items featuring his likeness. Ramirez expects to have them available soon.
Although Ramirez said the store was not in danger of closing, the addition of custom-made rosaries has provided a needed boost in business.
“We love making rosaries,” she said. “I don’t want to sound cheesy, but when I make these rosaries, I pray for the people even if I don’t know who they are.”
After nearly 17 years, Ramirez figures she’s “done something right.” And, she added, “It’s something I want to continue doing.”