December 9, 2011

After more than a century of service, Krieg Bros. Religious Supply House closes its doors

Anne Krieg looks at merchandise at Krieg Bros. Religious Supply House on Dec. 3, the last day of operation of the nearly 120-year-old business in downtown Indianapolis. A member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis, Krieg, 91, managed the store for three decades until it closed. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Anne Krieg looks at merchandise at Krieg Bros. Religious Supply House on Dec. 3, the last day of operation of the nearly 120-year-old business in downtown Indianapolis. A member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis, Krieg, 91, managed the store for three decades until it closed. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Krieg Bros. Religious Supply House was an institution for Catholics and people of other faiths in Indianapolis for nearly 120 years.

But the tradition of purchasing gift items, books and parish supplies at their downtown location within view of Monument Circle came to an end when the store closed for the final time on Dec. 3.

“It was a staple of our Catholic diet,” said Caris Roller as she stood in a long line of customers to purchase items on the store’s last day of business. “There was food for our souls in the place. There’s no other store like this for our faith. There’s nothing of this magnitude.”

Roller, a member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, regularly went to Krieg’s to buy religious items she couldn’t find elsewhere—rare holy cards, medals and lithographs.

At 36, Roller, who has lived in Indianapolis for about 13 years, found the store’s closing “devastating.”

It led fellow shopper Lisa Marsh, 42, a member of St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis, to tears.

She had learned of the closing that morning while watching a local TV news program.

“Thank God I saw it this morning because today is it,” Marsh said.

Her mother and grandmother brought her to the store when she was a child. They both live in Florida now. And whenever they returned to Indiana, Marsh would take them back to Krieg’s.

“We always came down here. It’s like home, you know,” said Marsh, becoming tearful. “I’m emotional about it. It’s very upsetting.”

It was a sad day, too, for Anne Krieg, 91, who had managed the historic store for three decades, right up to its last day.

“I always loved it,” said Krieg, a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis, as customers filled the aisles of her family’s store. “There were always a lot of interesting books coming in, and a lot of the new artwork. Different companies came through, and I received them and saw all their wonderful stuff.

“It will be a long time before they have a store of this caliber with this much merchandise.”

Jerry Krieg of Atlanta, a grandson of the store’s co-founder, said the declining health of his aunt, Anne Krieg, as well as a lack of interest by other family members to carry on the business and the difficult economic climate all contributed to the decision to close the Indianapolis landmark at this time.

Yet, the decision was a “bittersweet” one for him.

“I was there on Saturday,” said Jerry Krieg. “And to be there at 5 p.m. and shut off the lights for the last time—that was something.”

Father James Bonke, part-time associate pastor of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis and defender of the bond in the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal, had shopped at Krieg’s from the time he was a little boy and, later, as a high school seminarian at the nearby Latin School, now closed.

“Krieg’s was almost a hangout for me,” he said.

After he was ordained a priest in 1970, Father Bonke continued to shop there.

“Any time you needed anything, you just called Krieg’s,” he said. “Chances were that they would have it or they would certainly know how to get it, and get it pretty quickly.”

That was true not only for priests and archdiocesan parishes, but for many Protestant ministers and congregations.

The Rev. Elfreda Hogan, 82, a minister at Universal Ministry Worldwide in Indianapolis, shopped at Krieg’s on its final day.

“I’ve been shopping down here at Krieg Brothers since 1956,” she said. “We’d come down here to buy robes. I bought my first robe here in 1956. And I’ve been shopping here ever since.

“It’s heartbreaking [that it’s closing].”

Father Bonke, who bought some books and cleric shirts a few days before Krieg’s closed, agreed.

“They were the only store of its kind in the Indianapolis area,” he said. “You could get anything that you could ever think of as far as Catholic religious goods, whether for clergy needs, Church needs or gifts. My mother shopped there frequently for gifts for us kids and the grandkids.

“It’s sad.”

(An auction to sell the remaining merchandise at Krieg Bros. Religious Supply House will take place at 10 a.m. on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13 with doors opening for preview at 9 a.m. each day. Krieg’s is located at 119 S. Meridian St. in Indianapolis.)

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