For owner, Christian gift store’s closing signals end of one season and the beginning of another

The Abba House Christian store is going out of business after 22 years, but owner Dennis Hutchings considers himself blessed. (Photo by Kevin Leininger of News-Sentinel.com)

When Dennis Hutchings quit his job as an operator of hyperbaric medical equipment to open a Christian gift shop, he prayed the enterprise would survive for at least five years. That was 22 years ago.

But as Scripture says, everything has its season — and Abba House’s is about to come to an end.

“It’s been by God’s grace. I’ve never looked at this as a job; it’s an a apostolate. But it’s time,” said Hutchings, a devout Catholic whose store at 3209 N. Anthony will begin a going-out-of-business sale Thursday not only because he’s 71 but also because of cultural and technological changes to which neither church nor commerce is immune.

Lower attendance at mass and other religious services reflects a declining demand for Christian books, icons, artwork and other gifts, Hutchings said, and that trend has been exacerbated by the Internet, which allows people to shop without leaving home — or walking through his door. Who buys videos anymore?

“Everything has come together (to make this the right time to close),” he said. “Sometimes you get low and ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Then people come in and say the store helped them go back to church. I’ve gotten to help people, be there for them, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Starting Thursday the store will remain open indefinitely Monday through Saturday between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., with sale prices reduced even more as the inventory dwindles. Once it’s gone, Hutchings plans to spend the extra time gardening, traveling, exercising and visiting his 100-year-old mother in California.

“It’s all been by God’s grace,” he said.