- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the District sent local Catholic stores scrambling to meet the demand for memorabilia, as many of them sold out of “any and everything pope.”

Vendors at the Nationals Park were also slammed with lines for an hour and a half before and after the papal Mass on Thursday, and unofficial street vendors popped up Wednesday, hawking buttons, T-shirts and even Vatican flags to thousands of gawkers on Pennsylvania Avenue waiting to see Benedict ride by in his popemobile.

“Any and everything pope that we had in our store is gone,” said Sylvia, assistant manager of the gift store at the Franciscan Monastery on Quincy Street Northeast as she juggled phone calls and long lines demanding souvenirs of the papal visit. Sylvia declined to give her last name.

The gift shop sales at the National Shrine for the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception tripled this week.

Ester Garbla, the gift shop’s supervisor, counts the store’s profits at the end of every day and said that the store generally makes about $1,000 each day, but since Monday, she has seen that number jump to $3,000.

Even after Benedict left Washington yesterday morning and headed to New York for the second half of his U.S. journey, the shops still had long lines.

“We’ve been packed all day,” Ms. Garbla said late yesterday morning.

Mary Sadlock, the senior assistant manager of the National Shrine’s gift and book shops, said she expects the lines to continue through the weekend because pope visitors are probably still in town.

“A lot of people do want that memorabilia with a date on it,” she said.

The National Shrine and the Monastery alike have been selling out of crosses, rosaries, lapels, coffee mugs, buttons, magnets, key chains, medals and of course, T-shirts — all emblazoned with the date and title of the pope’s visit: Pope Benedict XVI, Christ Our Hope, Apostolic Journey to the United States, April 2008.

The T-shirts in particular sold out very quickly. The National Shrine has already seen its second order fly off the shelves — an order itself brought in only because the first order sold so quickly.

This trend in the local gift shops also appeared on the streets of Washington, as Benedict made several stops in the District — the White House, the National Shrine, Catholic University of America, the John Paul II Cultural Center, the Vatican Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue and Nationals Park, where he celebrated Mass for 46,000 on Thursday.

He sometimes traveled from one location to the next in his all-white Mercedes popemobile, and anywhere he went, the vendors followed.

After the pope received the official White House welcome on Wednesday, Pennsylvania Avenue was lined with street vendors selling unofficial pope merchandise, and the 20 vendors at the stadium on Thursday catered to lines that stayed long from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Catholic to the Max is the authorized merchandiser for the Archdiocese of Washington of items commemorating Benedict’s visit to Washington and supplied all of the memorabilia at the shops and papal Mass.

Mark Nelson, the company’s founder and CEO, said that all the proceeds from the sale of these items will benefit Christ Our Hope Foundation, the organization supporting the papal visit to Washington, which could cost up to $10 million.


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