Kathy Koley, owner of the Cosgrave Company church goods store in Omaha, looks at stocks of Communion hosts stacked up on her warehouse shelves April 8. MIKE MAY/STAFF

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Business owners lean on God to make it through crisis

Communion hosts, sacramental wine, votive candles: box after box after box of them.

Normally these and other items for liturgical worship would be moving quickly off the Cosgrave Company’s shelves, routinely purchased by area churches.

No so this year. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and consequent suspension of public liturgies, they sit idle while store owner Kathy Koley hopes and prays for a quick end to the pandemic and the survival of her business.

Restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the decline in consumer spending and loss of business activity have had a huge effect on her church goods store, said Koley, a member of St. Thomas More Parish in Omaha. She and other Catholic business owners in the Omaha archdiocese are now leaning on their Catholic faith to see them through.

SENSE OF LOYALTY

At Cosgrave’s, one of the store’s peak seasons is now unusually quiet. Items that would normally be selling fast during the spring – first Communion dresses, and gifts and greeting cards for first Communions, Confirmations and Easter also aren’t moving. “There’s been no walk-in traffic,” Koley said.

“Basically, we’re not selling anything,” she said. “We’ve laid off a couple of people and we’ve cut back on the hours for the staff we have.”

Layoffs included one employee who was planning to resign soon and the person being trained to assume that job. Another employee who works in the receiving department only when goods are delivered is currently not working.

A sense of loyalty drives Koley to do everything she can to keep her employees on. “A lot of them have been here since we bought the store in 2005,” she said.

“I’m just trying to keep them paid at least a portion of their hours, and everybody’s been pretty good about it.”

Fortunately, many of them have spouses with stable incomes, but Koley herself is not so lucky.

‘LIKE FAMILY’

Her husband, Tom Koley, operates Koleys, Inc., an Omaha company that repairs and restores church metalware such as chalices, ciboriums, tabernacles, candle holders and other items. It also is seeing flagging demand.

Because of the specialized nature of Koleys’ work, its employees are well-paid, experienced craftsmen who would be hard to replace, Tom said.

“They’re like family, and even though I’m losing money left and right, I’ve kept them on,” he said, hoping the federal government’s payroll protection plan will soon kick in and help out for the next couple months.

“But faith is what really gets you through,” Tom said. “Otherwise, I would just say, ‘The heck with it.’”

He believes in the power of prayer, and with good reason: He’s a three-year survivor of stage-four throat cancer.

Speaking of his health crisis, he said, “I was scared, I was nervous, but I wasn’t scared to death. It didn’t keep me up at night because I had faith, and that put things in perspective.”

He now depends on God to help him and his wife weather another crisis.

“I pray a lot more than I used to,” Tom said. “I always pray at night, but now I pray a lot harder, get down on my knees more.”

So the Koleys aren’t losing hope. Leaning on prayer and their companies’ lines of credit, they plan to keep going.

“Both of us are in this together,” Kathy said, “so we’re just going to ride out the storm.”

STILL SLEEPING

Theresa Case is the owner of Omaha Trans-Video, a company that digitally preserves photos, films, videotapes and other media. She said coronavirus restrictions have had a sudden impact on her business, forcing her to lay off her two employees – one of whom was her own daughter.

“I’m the only one working now,” she said.

Case, a former employee who bought the company in 2003, credits her Catholic faith with helping her cope.

“There’s no doubt about it,” she said. “I am actually still sleeping, and it’s due to God, because if I didn’t have faith, I’d be going crazy right now.”

Case knows her service is not a “need to have” for people who may be facing their own economic hardships, so she was not surprised by the drop-off in business.

“But I just don’t feel like this is our end,” she said. “Sometimes I’m wavering, but I always come back to, (God has) had us covered since I took over the company. He knows when I need it, and when I do, he always provides it.

“So even if somebody owes me money, I don’t freak out about it because he’s got it under control, and then when I get it, I needed it the worst.”