February 16, 2018

Krieg Brothers finds new location after nearly six decades

Krieg Brothers Religious Supply store, which opened in 1892, operated out of this building in downtown Indianapolis since the early 1960s. Structural issues in the nearly 125-year-old building forced the store to move to a new location, 536 E. Market St., in Indianapolis, where it will re-open on Feb. 24. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Krieg Brothers Religious Supply store, which opened in 1892, operated out of this building in downtown Indianapolis since the early 1960s. Structural issues in the nearly 125-year-old building forced the store to move to a new location, 536 E. Market St., in Indianapolis, where it will re-open on Feb. 24. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Natalie Hoefer

Jane and John O’Connor had often thought of opening a family business one day. But raising and home-schooling six children left little time for such a venture.

When Jane started teaching the last of their children at the high school level, she saw her schedule soon opening up. Her plan was to then dedicate more time to nursing.

“I expected to take that path in life,” says Jane, who with her husband and three college-aged children is a member of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Martinsville. “I plan my life—but God controls it.”

‘We took a chance and invested’

By that comment she refers to the other path her life took instead. In 2014, she and John heard about an opportunity to buy Krieg Brothers, a family-owned Catholic supply and retail store in Indianapolis founded in 1892. The business was sold in 2011 and scaled drastically down in size and services. The man who purchased the business decided to close Krieg Brothers permanently in early 2014.

“I had been a regular customer there at least five years,” says John. “I would buy things to give away or to increase my spiritual journey.”

He stayed in touch with the man who bought the business in 2011. When the O’Connors found out his plans to close the store, says Jane, “We looked at each and said, ‘What do you think?’ So we took a chance and invested.”

“It was good timing and a match with where I wanted to be as far as helping out churches and the people in the churches,” says John.

In April 2014, the couple re-opened Krieg Brothers on the same corner where it had stood since the early 1960s, on Meridian Street a few blocks south of Monument Circle.

Business ‘through spiritual eyes’

The O’Connors re-established the original two-fold nature of the business—a retail side selling Bibles, rosaries, statues, prayer cards, medals, crucifixes and gifts for sacraments; and a supply side, which orders and sells Church-related items for parishes and non-Catholic churches alike.

The couple is not in the religious retail and supply business to turn a profit. Rather, says Jane, “What we make is able to sustain the business.”

Even that goal “takes quite a bit of hours,” says John. “I don’t think most people realize how a small business takes quite a bit of time to do.”

The O’Connors operate Krieg Brothers in addition to both having other jobs. Jane, now 61, oversees the business on the weekdays and every other weekend, while also working the night shift as needed on the weekends as a nurse in Bloomington. John, now 58, works as an engineer in Indianapolis during the week, then operates the store on the weekends.

“We don’t have many vacations, that’s for sure,” John admits. “But I wouldn’t trade it. There are times I’m down there by myself [and] I’m grateful for the quiet time, and [also] grateful for the time to help others. People come in and want to share a story of something that happened to them that was spiritually meaningful or uplifting or miraculous. From that standpoint, you realize there’s a real value to individual interaction.”

Jane can relate. She admits there have been “several times where I’ve wondered why I’m doing this. I’ll pray, ‘Lord, I know I’m here, and I guess I’m supposed to be. Can you give me some reason?’

“It will be that day that someone comes in and says, ‘I don’t know why I came in here.’ And I’ll say, ‘You came here for me!’ …

“But honestly, not a week goes by that I don’t feel some divine inspiration if I look at it through spiritual eyes.”

‘… and that’s how God works’

All was going well despite the “crazy schedule,” says Jane. “I planned it—but God has taken control.”

That control took the shape of an unexpected need in 2017 to find a new location.

“When we moved into the old location, the landlord had always wanted to renovate,” Jane explains. “He got some engineers to look at it last year.

“They found [the building] was structurally unsound. It became a public liability issue.”

The O’Connors searched for a new location for two months.

“We wanted to stay downtown, but the rent was so expensive,” says Jane. “We couldn’t find anything we could afford.”

So in August 2017, the O’Connors found themselves with no building from which to operate the retail portion of Krieg Brothers.

What happened next is what Jane calls a “God thing.”

A reporter from The Indianapolis Star noticed the store’s boarded-up windows. The reporter called Jane. A short story about the closing of the retail portion of the store and the O’Connors’ hope to open elsewhere in Indianapolis ran in the Aug. 31, 2017, issue of the paper.

“The very next day, a person in North Carolina calls me up and says, ‘I believe we have a building for you in downtown Indianapolis!’ ” says Jane. “The man said that he kept in touch reading the Star even though he left [Indianapolis] several years ago, and just happened to see the article.”

Since the 1960s, he and his two brothers had owned a business located downtown at 536 East Market Street. Five years ago, they had to close their business. They still owned the vacant building, and offered to lease out one of its three floors to the O’Connors.

“They needed a renter, and we needed a place, and that’s how God works!” says Jane.

‘We’re not here by our own doing’

John notes that the new building “is a real blessing. It’s a real step up from the old one.” During the time the O’Connors operated Krieg Brothers in the former location, the building had neither heat nor air conditioning, he says. “We had ice on the windows on many occasions. I think the good Lord tested us to see if we were really in it to stay.”

The distance from the old to the new location is less than a mile.

“We’re just really happy about that,” says John. “[God has] really used that store to help a lot of people for a long time, for 125 years now. I hope we can stay [in the new location] a while.”

But as Jane says, no matter what the plan is, God is in control.

“The building is still for sale,” she notes. “My prayer to God is, ‘If you want us to be here, that whoever buys the building wants us, needs us to be here.’ It helps me realize we’re not here by our doing.

“We are here leaning on God to help us serve the community. … If we’re supposed to be here, he’ll take care of everything.”

(Krieg Brothers Religious Supply will re-open its retail store on Feb. 24 at 536 E. Market St. in Indianapolis. Business hours are Tuesday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Wednesday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, call 317-638-3416.)

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