By Christina Harper For The Herald
BOTHELL — Anita Morgan is a woman of faith. And she’s found a way to make her faith her livelihood.
She is the owner of Alleluia Catholic Store in North Creek Business Park in Bothell, in south Snohomish County.
“My store is my ministry,” Morgan said.
Six days a week, a small staff runs the store where visitors can find a wide array of religious statues, books, movies, rosaries and many other items.
“People do shop online,” Morgan said. “But here they can come in to touch and feel.”
There’s an area for children and a newly set-up corner for speakers and groups to meet. An upcoming presentation about Camino de Santiago, a Spanish pilgrimage walk, will be given by two people who have made the trek in the footsteps of Saint James.
Morgan’s own path to Alleluia Catholic Store was laid with faith and passion and began in 1991 in Yuma, Ariz., when she worked in a furniture store and met the man she would later marry. He was visiting the area from Seattle.
Five years later, when Morgan moved to the Pacific Northwest, she found that her relationship didn’t turn to marriage and she had time on her hands.
“I had all the time in the world to practice my faith,” she said.
Morgan went back to Yuma and considered opening a business with a friend. She wanted to deal in what she knew: high-end furniture.
But the two women could not agree on what merchandise to sell so they rented space next door to each other.
Morgan had a small space in her store that she thought would be good to dress up with religious items. She told a friend in Seattle.
“I was just daydreaming to him out loud,” Morgan said.
The friend suggested that Morgan take some donated items for her corner.
But she was shocked when a moving van arrived at her store with a full inventory of donated religious items, enough to fill the new store.
“No, no. I can’t do that,” she said.
The friend convinced her to take the donation. He also mentioned that the donor would be visiting his snowbird parents in Yuma and would come and train her for two weeks.
Morgan called the store Santa Cruz and sold the furniture inventory before the doors were open. Eighteen months later, her new boyfriend, John Morgan, asked her to marry him. She had two weeks to figure out what to do with her store.
“It was all in the Lord’s hands,” Anita Morgan said.
Within those two weeks, a couple Morgan knew took the helm of the Santa Cruz.
Morgan moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2001 and got married.
For years, she struggled to find a place to open a business like the one in Yuma.
Morgan had her eye on Country Village in Bothell as a site for a new Catholic store. With her husband’s support she opened a 550-square-feet business in 2008 at that location.
“I was her conscience,” John Morgan said. “We agreed to start on a small scale.”
But Morgan soon outgrew the space and while eating at a local restaurant with her husband she looked out the window and saw a “For Lease” sign.
“John said, ‘It’s too expensive,’” Anita Morgan said.
She closed the store in Country Village and moved to the North Creek Business Park location. It wasn’t long before Anita Morgan expanded the store and opened a second one in Kent.
Morgan’s vision for Alleluia Catholic Store is to eventually have a space where she has enough room for a larger children’s area and a bigger receiving area. She would also like an office instead of the converted bathroom she and her staff use.
Business at the store has increased, in terms of foot traffic, since opening in 2009. But the numbers are not up as much, Morgan said. She said she has faith in God and energy to see that her vision will grow and be a success.
And if customers can’t get to Alleluia Catholic Store, the store can get to them.
The Faithmobile is a long, red Catholic store on wheels that Morgan and her staff keep stocked up with items for those people in outlying parishes, city parishes, events and schools.
People are universally amazed when they see the Faithmobile, said Scott Paddock, business manager and Faithmobile coordinator.
“Everyone thinks it’s a brilliant idea,” Paddock said. “They want to know what they have to do to get it to their venue.”
The bus roams as far afield as Bremerton and other parts of Washington state as well as parking in Snohomish County for people to stop by and go inside to shop. Inside the spacious bus are items such as cards, artwork, rosaries, jewelry and books. A television in the bus shows videos while people shop.
The Faithmobile is a Ford Elf that was formerly a library bus in Ohio. Two friends of Morgan’s flew to the Buckeye State and drove the bus back to Washington.
“I immediately fell in love with the idea,” Morgan said.
Morgan’s thinking behind the Faithmobile included the realization that if she were to rent a billboard for two years the message and advertising would be stagnant.
The Faithmobile reaches parishioners in outlying areas who can’t get to the Alleluia store. Churches in cities love the visits, too.
“We have a parish that wants us there very often in Seattle,” Morgan said.