(Photo: Courtesy of Nelson Fine Art and Gifts)
As the world waits for 115 Cardinals to confirm a date for the conclave that will result in the election of the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, artisans at a Steubenville, Ohio, gift shop prepare to meet the demand for products featuring the newly-elected pontiff.
Nelson Fine Art and Gifts has been designing and manufacturing religious artwork, T-shirts and gifts for members of the Catholic faith and Christians throughout the world since 1994.
Kevin Nelles, sales and marketing manager for Nelson Fine Art and Gifts, told The Christian Post that although the staff has their own short list of possible candidates, they believe that such lists are generally inconsequential.
"We have a small list, yes, but it is of relatively small importance," Nelles said. "We are quite aware that such things are generally foolish to rely on, since the Holy Spirit doesn't answer to us. Nonetheless, wisdom begs that we know at least a little bit about the man who becomes Pope, if we are tasked with making him well known to others."
He added that everyone on staff will be keeping pace with the conclave news coverage either by radio, television or the Internet, as the day's events develop.
Among all of the gifts and collectibles that the store provides in-house and online, at Catholic to the Max, the company's best-selling product of all time is an 8x16 framed print of L'Innocence by William Adolphe Bouguereau.
"Eleven years ago, no one in our market had ever heard of Bouguereau or L'Innocence," Nelles said. "We changed all that and made it big, now everyone sells L'Innocence and Bouguereau art. We have long been a leader in the Catholic market that has moved trends on more than one occasion. Twenty years ago, Catholic shops were full of Jesus playing soccer, and mostly cutesy and irreverent merchandise. We changed that with, as CEO Mark Nelson would say, 'Fine Art for the Common Man.'"
One factor that sets the company apart from its overseas competitors is the fact that their products are made in the United States.
"A good deal of our customers appreciate the fact that we run an American-made operation," Nelles said. "For many of our customers, we are the go-to, one-stop-shop that can handle almost any job that they need done."
"There is certainly the moral and philosophical aspect, which is that our presence in the U.S. creates jobs, supports the local economy, and helps bring manufacturing back to our country," he added. "These are all things we believe in, truly."
"If our manufacturing took place offshore, and we ran out of stock on an item, we would be 90 days out from getting it," Nelles said. "Because we manufacture in-house every single day, we control the supply and stock, and are not held captive by our own inventory. Our inventory works for us, not the other way around."
As an example of a motivator behind the company's mission and devotion to the Catholic faith, Nelles quoted Sirach 38:39 "…their prayer shall be in the work of their craft…."