The term, Divine Mercy, has a lot to do with grace but it also has a lot to do when it comes to the establishment of a religious book store and gift shop. June 13, 2008 changed the parish of St. Patrick in Cedar Rapids forever. Flood water destroyed all of the buildings on St. Pat’s Parish property. After the reconstruction of the church and parish center (between the years of 2008 and 2014), the Parish of St. Patrick had to make a decision on what to do with the vacant rectory building.
The rectory was too large and expensive to fix-up for one resident priest. The Parish Council agreed that if the rectory could be reconstructed to include an apartment for a resident priest, public restrooms, a Wedding/Funeral component, a potential Religious Book Store and raise an additional $200,000.00 for reconstruction we would receive permission to go ahead with the project.
Raising the $200,000.00 and reconstruction of the rectory with parish volunteer labor was a two-year process. The reconstruction of the rectory also included a walk-way between the church and the rectory. As the reconstruction of the rectory was taking place the parish looked at existing Catholic Religious Stores in Eastern Iowa to open a second religious store on parish property. Space would be provided by St. Patrick Parish on the first floor of the rectory for $1.00. This religious bookstore would serve as a parish apostolate for the City of Cedar Rapids and surrounding area.
Due to the parish’s inability to find a religious store willing to open a second store at St. Patrick Parish, the Parish Council and Fr. Nienhaus decided to look inside the parish to a potential parishioner to facilitate and promote this apostolate.
Kathi Grainger approached St. Patrick's pastor, Father Ivan Nienhaus, at a church fish fry in March of 2014, expressing optimism that she and her husband might be interested in starting a Catholic Bookstore. Kathi’s husband, Art, was a former supply chain and logistics executive. Art was running a consulting business out of his home. At the urging of his wife, Kathi and Fr. Nienhaus, Art began researching what it would take to launch a successful Catholic bookstore. In May of 2014, Art traveled to Dallas to learn the business at a friend's store. These efforts proved successful.
On Nov. 21, 2014, Arthur and Kathi Grainger opened The ARK Catholic Books and Gifts Shop in the newly renovated rectory of St. Patrick's Church. The ARK Catholic Books and Gifts Shop was the first Catholic Bookstore to serve the local Catholic community in Cedar Rapids in over 10 years. The last Catholic Bookstore prior to The ARK Catholic Books and Gifts Stop was the Franciscan Bookstore located on 3rd Ave., S.E.
The ARK Catholic Books and Gifts Shop was opened just in time for the Christmas Season. The Store offered an assortment of religious books, bibles, rosaries, statues and gift items. The store also carried a large selection of smaller items like prayer cards and tokens that were meant to be passed on to others in 'acts of random kindness.”
After five years of running The ARK Catholic Books and Gifts Shop, Art and Kathi Grainger decided it was time to let someone else take over the daily operations of the store. Three parishioners at the time stepped forward to carry on the religious apostolate. They became the proud owners of The ARK Catholic Books and Gifts Shop in Feb. 28, 2019. One of their first changes was the name of the religious bookstore. Divine Mercy Gifts replaced The ARK Catholic Books and Gifts Shop.
Divine Mercy Gifts continues to expand upon the foundation established by Art and Kathi Grainger. The two themes of good service and quality merchandise that were the hallmark of The ARK Catholic Books and Gifts Shop have been dutifully maintained.
The selection of religious merchandise at the Divine Mercy Gifts continues to be expanded. Merchandise today includes items from many of the holy shrines of the world. One of a kind high-end religious items can be found in the store.
Specialty coffees, candy caramels along with a variety of jams and jellies produced and merchandised by religious orders have been available for sale. Lawn statues for home and cemetery use have generated great sales.
Divine Mercy Gifts tries to offer the latest items for those special repeat customers who are always wondering if there is anything new in the store. Divine Mercy Gifts understands its unique role in the business world. Divine Mercy Gifts recognizes that as a specialty store their customers wake in the morning and realize that a special gift needs to be purchased on that day. One can always be assured that what you are looking for, for that special person, is available at Divine Mercy Gifts.