The merchants of Hampden’s 36th Street Avenue are known in every corner of the city for their quirk, work, and weirdness.
Famous for its annual summer street festival, this city center thrives all year long on it’s offering of antique shops covered in kitsch and dust, knuckled between eclectic restaurants and some of the city’s best thrift stores. But hidden just off the beaten path is a family-owned and operated shop that offers grave yard dust and good luck rice, exotic incense and dried herbs, and more beautifully unique crystals than you could count. Literally. It’s a shop with just as much character as the whole city block around it.
“I’m always refreshing my stock in here. Sometimes you just have to mix it up…. I wanted a store that was geared toward all religious and spiritual paths. Where everybody could be welcome,” said Crystals, Candles and Cauldrons owner Shelley Klimm. “I have everyone from atheists to hardcore Christians [who come in here].”
That founding principle is easy to see in practice looking through the vast variety of products available. Christian statuettes of Mother Mary and Saint Theresa Lisieux rub elbows with the brightly painted Hindu Ganeshes and Kwan Yins of the Buddhist faith. The books on the shelves run the gamut- details on Hatian Voodoo practices, encyclopedias on ancient pre-christian/ Pagan gods, bibles in several different languages, Wiccan-occult manuals, and dream dictionaries. While the tarot cards, runestones, and crystal balls earn the store a New Age reputation, CCC offers classes, discussion groups and products that also cater to traditional religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Santeria, to name just a few.
“I’m onto the African traditional religions. You’re talking about religions that go back to when man first started practicing religion. To me, it’s just comfortable,” Klimm said of her own beliefs, which are freely on display on the store’s altar kept near the front door.
Walking into CCC, as it’s become known, it’s impossible not to notice the huge altar table that dominates the entrance. Crowded with melted candles, flowers, statues, coins, candies, prayer cards, and smoking incense it is the perfect introduction to this spiritual supply store where the mundane meets the magical. It’s an extremely important part of the store where patrons can fill the jar with donations for the local SPCA, leave candies in favor of the gods and saints dedicated there, and request for metaphysical assistance from Shelley herself.
“My grandmother’s side was Lithuanian and I can remember them doing novenas to saints. And actually on Saturday mornings, they would be anointing candles and cutting up herbs and my grandmother had a big altar and the candles would be for people in the neighborhood who needed healing.”
It’s a tradition that Klimm continues. “The first thing I do when I come in, in the morning is wake up the altar and work the candles and prayer work for people who have requested it…. I think by helping the community, it keeps you in a good light. I think it’s really important for alternative religious practices to stay in that good light.”
It’s her desire to promote religious understanding and tolerance hand-in-hand with her genuine hope to help Baltimore’s people with divine intervention that carries the store to new heights. “I think the fact that we honor all religious beliefs and I think that because we are willing to take chances by- for example- bringing in the Voodoo priest to give classes and read here. That was a huge chance that I took. For about a month, I had people calling me telling me they weren’t going to shop here…. [But] I like to be cutting edge on what we do.”
“I feel very good here. I like the energy. I come in and see the altar, I see that questions are being answered and I can get the answers I need- that’s important to me,” said customer and store Tarot reader, Lady Trivia. “I work very hard to keep sacred space in here. I won’t tolerate [persecution] in here. Everyone is welcome. In Hampden, really anything goes. They welcomed us with open arms. Everybody respects everybody else.”
About her very open-minded attitude toward spirituality, Klimm said “I think we were just given a basis on how to live, how to treat each other and how to get along. Not insane rules regarding birth control and you can do this and you can’t do that…. What I’m really hoping for is for people to realize that no matter what we call our path or our God or our deities, we’re all the same- it all leads to the same point. It’s just called by different names.”
But not only is CCC a place where everyone can express their spiritual ideas, it’s also a place where everyone can afford these “luxuries.” “It shouldn’t be that only some can afford it. When you’re talking about spiritual supplies, everyone should afford it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given something away because someone comes in and you can tell they can’t afford it. And that sticks with people. It comes from my heart when I do it. And I believe it comes back to you. By keeping my prices low- every now and then I give some things away- and by not being greedy, that’s when abundance comes back to you.”
And this philosophy has indeed worked for CCC. “We did not expect it to take off the way it did. It’s kind of surreal that five years ago, I was working in the medical industry. And then, here we are- and I’m living my dream. I didn’t set out to have this business with the thought that ‘well- I’m going to be driving a Porsche and living in this huge house.’ As long as I can make a living doing this, as long as it helps to support my family, than I’m happy. And we’re going on our fifth year. It’s working.”
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