Monastery of the Holy Spirit Brother James Truong, foreground, weighs portions of biscotti, one the many products made on site at the monastery and sold at the Abbey Gift Shop. Other monks at work include, from left, candidate Joseph Wiederhold, Brother Cassian Russell, Brother Guerric Riopel, Brother Ricky Layong and Brother Joseph Mary McHenry.
Want to avoid the hassle of driving into Atlanta for that out-of-the-ordinary Christmas present? Well, you can by visiting a shop right here in Conyers that carries unusual items from around the globe.
The Abbey Gift Shop at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit offers hand painted clay wind chimes from Peru, alpaca scarves from Brazil, and stone necklaces from Kathmandu.
"It's a lot of one-of-a-kind. You're not going to find these things in gift shops in the area," said Brother Peter Damian, store manager and monk at the monastery.
The gift store is part of the new visitors center complex at the monastery and boasts a wide selection of clothing, jewelry, food, books and religious articles. Instead of the cramped quarters of the old Abbey gift store, which existed in a building closer to the monastery, shoppers now have the luxury of space in which to browse, said Damian.
The expanded store also allows for a greater variety of merchandise, he said. An especially unique addition to the Abbey Gift Shop is the Fair Trade section which carries items made by people in developing countries. Sale of the items supports the artisans and their families, as well as community projects like schools and health clinics.
From the Nepalese city of Kathmandu, there are blouses, skirts, hooded jackets and coats; blue lapis jewelry comes from Nepal; and there are Ecuadorian tagua tree bracelets, mahogany olive wood nativity sets from Africa, and vases made by a man in Malaysia.
"The amount of people coming through and the amount of money they're spending is amazing,"said Damian. "Because of our ability to offer these unique gifts, people are willing to spend the extra money."
The Abbey store's food selection has also grown. Fruit cake, fudge and biscotti made by monks at the monastery, and honey harvested on the grounds is available. Other Georgia food products for sale include preserves, jams, jellies, candy, pecans with organic spices and coffee toffee.
"That is really popular," said Damian of the coffee toffee.
International foods include jams and jellies from England, France, Spain and Chili; torte from Seville; and olive oil, vinegar and pasta from Italy.
"We're going for really unique food that you're not going to find at Publix or Kroger," said Damian.
The Abbey Gift Shop is also home to the largest Catholic book selection in Georgia but Damian said that people from all denominations, and even other faiths, will find items of interest in the collection.
If religious icons, pictures, statues and jewelry are on the Christmas list of your loved one, the Abbey Gift Shop has plenty of those, too.
Damian said since the shop opened in May, it's experienced steady growth.
"Sales are up over last year and traffic is up over last year," he said.
The Abbey Gift Shop is open 10 a.m. To 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. On Sunday. Christmas Eve closing time is 2:30 p.m.
To learn more, visit www.trappist.net.