MILWAUKEE — Kathleen Frassetto-Suhr once worked in the building that houses the Marian Center and has long been a customer.
Now, Frassetto-Suhr is the new co-owner of the Marian Center, a Catholic bookstore at 3712 N. 92nd St.
“It’s sort of like going home for me,” she said.
Frassetto-Suhr and her husband, Bill Suhr, closed the deal to purchase Marian Center on Friday, May 20, just days before it would have been shut down by its previous owner, Miles Jesu, a Chicago-based organization that promotes consecrated life for lay people. The purchase price was not disclosed.
Frassetto-Suhr first heard that Marian Center was up for sale from a fellow parishioner at St. Mary’s Visitation in Elm Grove.
“I thought, ‘We can’t let this go out of business because Catholics need to have this Marian Center. It takes care of the needs of the community,’” she said.
Since its founding in 1988, the Marian Center has carried a large variety of books, statues, medals and other Catholic merchandise and gift items. Frassetto-Suhr already is ordering new stock and plans to expand product lines.
“We’re going to upgrade some of the items and appeal to the masses in different price ranges,” she said. “We’ll keep our suppliers and add some other quality suppliers.”
The Marian Center’s website is being rebuilt, said Frassetto-Surh, adding interactive tools, online shopping and the opportunity for customer suggestions. She also wants to raise the Marian Center’s profile by partnering with other businesses and events.
Another service Frassetto-Suhr wants to add is party-planning for celebrations such as confirmations.
“Marketing is my forte,” she said.
Marian Center International LLC will be the for-profit entity operating the Marian Center, with the couple serving as its managing members. A portion of profits will go to Marian Charities, Inc., a newly established 501(c)3 non-profit organization that will support various charities and other non-profits. Frassetto-Suhr will serve as its president and chair of the board. Marian Charities will accept monetary donations and, eventually, contributions of religious articles for resale.
“What I do know, it’s going to be God’s work,” she said.
Frassetto-Suhr is enthusiastic about keeping the Marian Center’s chapel.
“It’s a place for prayer amidst a world of hustle and bustle and craziness,” she explained. “People are just inundated with cell phones and computers and cars – it’s hard to have a place where you can go for some silence or some good Catholic camaraderie.”
Frassetto-Suhr plans to dress up the retail space with new carpeting, paint and displays. She would like to add an area where customers can have coffee and conversation.
The Marian Center will continue to rent its four storefronts, said Frassetto-Suhr, who once worked upstairs in the building as a secretary for a real estate company.
Frassetto-Suhr, 56, and her husband own a company that focuses on business consulting and real estate deals. They live in Elm Grove.
She grew up in Kimberly, attending Holy Name of Jesus Elementary School. She is working on degrees in religious studies and business at Cardinal Stritch University and is an associate with the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
“I’m very involved in the Catholic community,” she said.
Negotiations for the purchase of the Marian Center took about two months, a time that involved as much prayer as legal work.
“It was something that was calling me,” said Frassetto-Suhr. “It felt like a mission for me.”
Miles Jesu had owned Marian Center since 2005. Maire Duggan, co-administrator of Miles Jesu, said she was “grateful to God” that the Marian Center would remain open and praised its new owner.
“Kathleen and I have become good friends, and I think it’s been a win-win for everybody,” said Duggan. “She’s starting to take the bull by the horns and invest in the center. She’s a go-getter.”