SCRANTON -- A big announcement from the Catholic Diocese of Scranton on Friday. The Diocese is closing its downtown gift shop, known as the Guild, at the end of August.
Stores like the Guild on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton used to be much more popular. It's a place Catholics can buy religious materials and priests can buy the vestments they wear. Now, this store may be the last one of its kind in Northeastern PA, and officials with the Diocese of Scranton say it's just not sustainable anymore.
Carol Wasalinko of Scranton rushed down to Wyoming Avenue after she heard the news and planned to wipe out the store's supply of Virgin Mary medals. She uses them on blankets for all new babies born in her parish.
The store that sells religious materials will shut its doors on August 31, and Carol says other stores like it are hard to find.
"Disastrous, because if they don't have the store online, the only place I have left is to go to Philadelphia and get the medals, hopefully, through there," said Wasalinko.
The Guild Store has sat on the corner of Wyoming Avenue and Mulberry Street since 1958. Throughout the years, the number of religious stores has dwindled, and the Guild is the only one left in the Diocese of Scranton. Catherine Holleran traveled from Susquehanna County to buy a baptism gift.
"I'm shocked, actually, that they're closing," said Catherine Holleran of Harford, "because I don't think there's one around for another 50 miles. Everybody comes here that I know of."
Officials with the Diocese of Scranton say it all comes down to consolidating space and saving money. Once the Guild Store closes, this building will go up for sale and everything else inside it will be moved to the former Holy Cross High School across the street.
"Just as many other businesses and organizations are looking to see how they can operate more efficiently and the diocese needs to do the same." said spokesman Bill Genello.
Genello, from the Diocese of Scranton, says the Guild has operated at a loss for the past five years since so much of the religious business has moved to the Internet. But, longtime employee Susan Pilosi doesn't see it that way.
"I didn't see really that big of a decline in business at all. I think we've still been giving and getting a lot of customers. That's why it's been a surprise," Pilosi told Newswatch 16.
Officials with the Diocese say the Guild will no longer have its online store when they close up shop on August 31. They say it was an unfortunate but necessary decision to save money. Those officials also say they already have some people interested in buying the building.