I see from time to time a certain outcry about how the “pagan community” is not supporting their local pagan shops, and then resulting disappearance for said shops. So I thought I would post my two cents on this subject because, while I do support local shops in general when I want to purchase something (such as the fact that I purchased my lingam stone I use for my Agyieus stone of Apollon from a local shop rather than ordering it online) I personally don’t make the distinction to shop specifically at pagan shops.. I shop whichever place has whatever particular thing I need or want. And most often that is not at pagan shops.
Now I understand that pagan shops provide for some folks networking and that shop-owners are often informed and helpful towards beginners. Ok that is granted. However, the target of most of this is towards a very specific group of the so called “pagan community” and that would be your witchcraft traditions and eclectic witches. Occassionally they may have something that appeals to a polytheist, some statue perhaps. But there is only so many statues that one needs. Sometimes I may browse a pagan shop just to see what they have that is new, but there is rarely anything that I feel would be helpful for me. I don’t buy blessed candles, or ingredients for spells (since I don’t practice witchcraft), and the semi-precious stones I get from another local shop that specializes in beading and usually doesn’t have such highly marked-up prices. Even the books that these shops carry cater towards witchcraft related traditions and magic in general so I don’t even feel motivated to visit to perhaps get a new book. Then there is a fact that, rather than suppor their local artisans and provide unique handmade things for their customers, they are rehashing the same tired stuff that can be found anywhere online. Not to mention the same boring typical pagan jewlery etc.
I had a friend once we had started up her own pagan store, and I had thought to help her by donating all my books pertaining to Wicca and witchcraft that had been accumulated by me over the years with the idea of opening a alternative religion library. She was worried about how few customers they had, and I suggested to her that perhaps having an internal library room where customers could come and read books, and possibly check them out, might draw more buisness to her. She liked the idea and so, with that intention in mind I donated upward of 50 books, many of them older hard to get books, to her store as an instore library. I found out a month later, when I saw the books on display in the store itself and their dwindling number that she had decide to go ahead and sell the books if customers wanted them because she could “replace them later”. I was infuriated because that is not what I had donated the books for. I could have just as easily sold them myself. Needless to say her store ended up closing.
The point of that story is that too many pagan stores are so caught up in the bottom line, in making sales, that they spend less effort in doing community related things that will attract people to their stores. Phenominally expensive workshops don’t do quite so well when many pagans have few pennies to rub together, and anyone who wants to do a free or donation lecture is generally met with high prices to rent out space that they really can’t afford if they are not taking money in themselves. Then with everything they sell being twice, and sometimes, three times more expensive than other local shops…well I think you see where I am going with this. The way that Pagan Shops are set up does not create a relationship with the wider so called “pagan community”. It lacks the diversity to attract non-witchcraft related polytheistic traditionalists, doesn’t particularly support the local community very well, and over prices itself so much that folks just don’t feel any inclination to go in. And even those who do practice some craft related religious tradition…just how many athames, wands, chalices and so on do you need? Everyone gets to the point when it comes to religious tools to where they have all that they need, and a shop that doesn’t have variety is goig to find itself with dwindling customers very quickly.
Now I had once thought of having an Polytheistic Interfaith shop and Library as I mentioned above. Though it was a dream that never manifested and for which I don’t have the capital to pull off. I wanted to have a two story building. The lower floor being the shop which customers would have to go through to the reach the upper floor which would be the library. The library itself would have been divided into broad categories with all withcraft related stuff in one section, Heathenry and its related religions in another, Roman and Hellenic Polytheism in another, Khemeticism and so on. In the shop I would want to have a variety of images from statues to card icons of gods from various traditions which I would have hopefully recieved primarily from local artisans, a section for supplies for those who do the witchcraft stuff..minimal tools and more herbs and whatnot that I would let someone else design lol, a small selection of various ritual tools for other traditions (again supplied from a local crafter so that when one peice sells I can get another to put on the floor so that I am not overstocking in seldomly bought stuff but the stuff is available), artwork and showcases for local authors. And of course a backroom for discussions and ritual for a very small reasonable fee like 10 dollars for non-profit use, whereas charging workshops would pay a bit more. To me the key would have been flexibility,variety, and resource. But you see why it never manifested because that kind of dream would have required a LOT of seed money to get started lol. All the same this is how I see a store functioning…and if supporting local artists rather than buying the work upfront you have the option of displaying it in your store and upon its sale the artist would get their money and profit from your small markup on what they wanted would go into your pocket.
But as pagan shops are now, I can’t say that I make any outright effort to suppor them because they really have nothing to do with my religious life or spiritual needs. But I do firmly believe in shop locally which is where the larger chunk of my spending money goes :)