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Grabill gift shop offers tools for spiritual growth

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2004-08-16


A Nebraska native and wife of a Navy veteran, Marjorie Coe has been running the Catalpa Tree Shops in Grabill since 1986. Coe describes the Catalpa Tree Shops as a metaphysical bookshop and gift store, selling spiritual self-help books, CDs, cards, crystals, and other gifts. That’s one part of it. But on a larger scale, Coe sees what she does as provide people with a center for spiritual self-development. “Every time I’m asked that question (how to describe the Catalpa Tree Shops), I never know how to find the exact words,” she says. “It’s kind of a place for self-development, and hopefully, we offer the tools, the classes, the books, the conversation, whatever needed to do that.”

Coe originally opened her store under the name Helping You Help Yourself, but so many people were familiar with the building’s original name — the Catalpa Tree Shops — that she eventually changed it. Besides, she decided the symbol of a Catalpa Tree sort of suited what she was trying to do. “The Catalpa tree is the one with all the seeds that they drop all over the place, and when I first opened the business I had a business card that I dropped in a plastic bag with some Catalpa tree seeds with the phrase ‘Planting Seeds for Your Future.’”

Coe was motivated to open the store by an experience she had over 20 years ago. “I had had what we’ll call an awakening,” she says. “If you get familiar with this sort of thing, you’ll find a lot of titles are When the Door Flew Open and things like that. For those of us who are in to this, there comes a day when suddenly there’s this ‘a-ha’ that you know there’s something more out there.”

Coe struggled to find materials and information to help her make sense of what she experienced. Bit-by-bit, with a little help from a few people she knew, she began understand more, and eventually, she says a tiny voice in the back of her head said “well, don’t you think there are other people out there going through the same things you are?”

When she opened the Catalpa Tree, the reaction was better than she expected. “There were actually several little nests of people in Fort Wayne who were studying among themselves and doing their own thing.”

There are far more people into what the Catalpa Tree offers than there have ever been. Coe says that’s because television and movies are incorporating much of the terminology and beliefs of spiritual self-help and growth, so people are more comfortable and familiar with it. “It makes it easier to walk in here now than it did before,” she says. She sees a lot of young people interested in spirituality, too, and gets family members coming in to discover more. “A very intelligent parent will say, ‘let me learn about this and see what my child is getting into,’” she explains.

One of the reasons for the success of the store could also be because Coe herself is very good at explaining the spiritual life to the uninitiated. She recognizes people might be scared by it, she recognizes they may not be ready, and she recognizes that many people come to the Catalpa Tree Shops just to find unique gifts, cards, candles, books, relaxation CDs, etc.

“I get a lot of people here who have been in religious institutions that have told them things they knew were not right, but their own spiritual growth just keep nudging them to keep growing,” she says. “What you have had you know doesn’t fit you, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop growing spiritually. But they’re seekers. They’re seeking for something that feels right for them. Really, the basis of everything I do here is helping people develop their own spirituality.”

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