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Pagan Store 101

April 8, 2012 Leave a comment

This article on Witchvox is a really good take on why so many Pagan shops fail, and I think it’s worth discussing.

I’d like to bring up the fact that Pagans generally have no business sense. Very few Pagans I’ve seen that are like “let’s open a store!” really have any kind of plan. They think that they’ll magically be solvent because ~the universe/Spirit/the Gods/Ceiling Cat~ will provide, to be honest. I think that’s why you see so much butthurt entitlement from them about Pagans needing to “support the community” and shit. Your store shouldn’t need to rely on guilting people into shopping there. Supply and demand, people. It’s a thing.

I’m under no obligation to shop at your store just because you’re Pagan. You want me to shop at your store? Sell shit I want, at a decent price. Plain and simple. One big issue I’ve seen, at least outside of the NYC area, is that a lot of these strip mall type Pagan stores all sell the same shit. Trust me, I lived in the Phoenix area for almost three years, which has more new age/metaphysical/Pagan stores than you can swing a cat at and none of them were really worth repeat visits frankly, except for the one that specialized in herbs (there’s that point about consumables again). The book selection was abysmal–Llewellyn 101 and New Age crystal humping garbage–and they literally all sold the same tacky shit from the same wholesalers at markup. The same gaudy altar tsotchkes festooned with pentagrams, the same tacky jewelry, the same brand stick incense you can get anywhere. Why do we need more than one of those stores in a given area, for real? Communities can’t sustain that.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart because I worked at a shop for a while, and it was the nerve center of the community and a huge part of my personal development (hell, the reason I got a job there was because I hung out there so much they decided to make me earn my keep). And the reason I think that shop survived for so long, in an area that got gentrified repeatedly with ridiculous rent increases, is that it didn’t follow that standard Shitty Pagan Store template at all. That store wasn’t a “Pagan store”, it was an old school occult supply shop of the sort that just doesn’t exist anymore. It didn’t just cater to Wiccans even though it was Wiccan owned, we had everybody shopping there–Wiccans, Santeros (a LOT of Santeros), Thelemites, rootworkers, ceremonial magicians, even “muggles”. It owed more to botanicas than anything. Our book selection wasn’t just the same tired Llewellyn shit, we carried all kinds to have such limited shelf space. We had a Spanish language section, for instance.

Our herb selection wasn’t huge (Manhattan space, lol), but we carried the staples. Our bread and butter was oils and incenses, though. We didn’t sell off the rack oil in fancy labeled bottles. We blended all that shit by hand off of old hoodoo recipes and shit, by request. And yeah, we carried off the rack stick incense, but our major seller was the loose incenses we made by hand, by request. Customers would come to the back, flip through the “menu”, and we would answer questions, etc. The big ticket service we did back there was handcarve and dress candles for people. That was my main job (oils/incense/candles) when I worked there and it was really rewarding, working with my hands and making things for people. It was great watching their eyes light up as I went about the work. Even if the yuppie bastards never wanted to tip. We also did big money in readings–just about half the employees also did readings and on a busy day we could be booked solid just from walk ins (it helped that we had a nice little space out back for it, when the weather was good). And we had some damn good readers. We also did animal rescue and had events in our little space. People had reasons to come to the store beyond just buying crap (which, naturally, gave them more opportunities to make impulse buys).

In other words, our shop was less about selling tsotchkes and more about selling staple consumables and providing services. We knew our regulars–I could be arsed to remember names but I could always remember so and so was a Leo that wanted a candle cause he was job hunting. Very rarely did I ever sell altar stuff, even though we carried it (and some gorgeous statuary of the sort that you don’t see everywhere). Nine times out of ten, I was ringing up oils/incenses/candles with a book or two.

I had no idea other stores were different until I went outside the NYC area and got acquainted with the cheesy PaganMarts that pass for supply shops. Pagan shops that rely on selling the same ol’ shit out of Pyramid Collection or whatever at markup don’t survive for good reason, and don’t deserve to, frankly.

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