After 67 years, Guardian Church Goods will permanently close at the end of August. Believed to be the only privately owned Catholic bookstore and gift shop in Arkansas, owner Michael Lipsmeyer, who took over for his father in the mid-1980s, said it’s time for him to retire, though it’s been “a blessing.” In 1950, the Guardian Church Goods store opened at 311 West Second Street in downtown Little Rock by what was then The Guardian (now called Arkansas Catholic). While the newspaper had first published in 1911, the Catholic gift shop became another way to financially support the operation of the publication besides subscriptions and advertising.
Edward F. Lipsmeyer worked at the Catholic gift shop for several years, taking great care of the merchandise, which included books, sanctuary candles, rosaries, saint medals, crucifixes, and religious vestments. Before buying the store, he worked as a traveling salesman, selling barber and beauty supplies throughout southern Arkansas. In 1966, when the newspaper office moved to St. John Center, the diocese sold the store to Edward and his wife Madge, who ran it for about 20 years. “He liked the Guardian and he liked selling religious articles. He liked it when he worked there before and he felt kind of a calling to that,” his son Michael Lipsmeyer said.
In 1968, the store moved to 411 West Seventh Street where it still is today, less than three blocks from the Cathedral. In a July 5, 1968, Guardian article, it said the Lipsmeyers had “devoted themselves to building up the stock and expanding the store’s market area.” A photo showed the smiling Lipsmeyers watching their son Mark hang up a sign stating, “We have got to move!” advertising great savings.
Touted then as the “only Catholic religious articles outlet between Memphis and Oklahoma City,” Michael Lipsmeyer said that is still generally the case today, except for local parishes and religious orders that also run gift shops. Lipsmeyer has been trying to sell the store for three years and though they found about four or five prospective buyers, ultimately none panned out.
Even though there are a slew of places Catholics can find religious items online, comments of “we will miss you,” many thanks, and disbelief flooded the Guardian’s Facebook page. Lipsmeyer will be able to spend more time with his wife, Louene, as they travel between Missouri, Colorado, and Alabama, visiting their eight grandchildren. Even though it’s an end of an institution, Lipsmeyer said he can fondly reflect on how the memories go beyond merely selling items. ”It was always about making a connection of faith through a religious article,” he said.