By Dan Russo
DUBUQUE — Casey Reekie, owner of M.J. Knippel Church and Religious Supply Company is the fourth generation of her family to operate a business that has served the needs of Catholics and other Christians in the Dubuque area for over 110 years.
She enjoys chatting and laughing with customers, but as she prepares to close the shop on Main Street for the last time at the end of October, her smiles have been tempered with tears.
“It’s very hard,” said Reekie. “This is my life. I was born here. I go to work every day with my great-grandfather, my grandmother and my father. I touch the same cases. I sit at the same desk. I’m going to have to take the memories with me. I’ve gotten very close to the regular customers. Some of them are like family to me.”
Antique cabinets filled with statues of saints or nativity sets line the show room, along with personalized rosaries Reekie creates herself, prayer books, sacramentals and other gifts for first communion, Easter or any other spiritual occasion.
The back room and basement contains more inventory — chalices, candlesticks, monstrances and clerical robes. Drawers are filled with lithographs and other sacred art, some dating back to the 19th century. A stack of old palms, a palm cutter and even a pan used to burn the left over palms so they could be used for Ash Wednesday are part of a collection of things used to express faith in all its aspects.
“(The store) has gotten us to interact in our religion a lot, including regular church and religious ed,” said Reekie, a member of Nativity Parish. “I taught religious ed for 17 years … and taught the religious awards for boy scouts. The store has drawn us to God is what it has done.”