Retailers observe day of rest
Religious convictions not for sale

By JENNIFER RUDE KLETT - Conley News Service

Nov. 25, 2016

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory owners Harry and Mary Schaff purposefully close their downtown Delafield shop on Sundays.
Jennifer Rude Klett/Conley News Service

DELAFIELD — Despite our hyper-commercialized world, there are some thriving retailers bucking the trend to remain open no matter the time or day, specifically Sunday.

These retail rebels stand in stark contrast to most stores held hostage to the seemingly never-ending shopping mentality — every day, extended hours and holidays — incessantly laboring to make a buck.

Hmm .... what would George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” say about our “Pottersville” commercialism? Or Charlie Brown, for that matter?

Of course, the principled entrepreneurs who do rest from the daily grind desire to be successful. But they also seek balance for themselves and their employees. Taking a breather speaks to the limits in life and the religious concept of the Sabbath, despite immense cultural and economic pressures to work constantly.

Some have taken flak from customers for standing by their religious convictions.

For Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, 807 Genesee St., Delafield, the hustle stops every Sunday. It is also closed on major holidays, and from noon to 3 p.m. on Good Friday.

“Sundays are a day of worship and rest, just the way it was intended to be,” said Harry Schaff, who owns the confectionery with his wife, Mary.

Schaff said the decision has had a “negative financial impact, but spiritually, mentally and emotionally it’s been positive.”

While they receive supportive comments from customers, the complaints often outnumber the praise, especially when they close for three hours on Good Friday, the start of Easter weekend for Christians and a busy candy-buying day.

“Unfortunately, they are missing out on what really matters in life and it just seems to be getting worse all the time,” he said.

Most of Wisconsin’s Sabbath laws, also called blue or Sunday laws, diminished after a state advisory referendum passed on such statutes in 1932. Blue laws require stores to be closed on Sundays to protect it as a day of rest.

Some forms of blue laws still exist. For example, Wisconsin car dealers still cannot open on Sundays. In next-door Minnesota, alcohol cannot be purchased on Sundays.

Observing the Sabbath

The Judeo-Christian concept of the Sabbath comes from the Old Testament. In the Ten Commandments, the fourth commandment reads in part, “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. ... Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God,” (New International Version Holy Bible).

The commandment elevated human beings from being slaves or beasts of burden.

The Book of Genesis also describes God creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh day, blessing it and making it holy.

“Judaism teaches us to take this time to be with family, to study Torah and go to services to pray, to have a special meal together and to take time out from the rat race of our working lives, so that we may refresh ourselves and be ready to start over gain with a clear mind and spiritual body,” said Cantor Deborah Martin from Congregation Emanu-El in Waukesha.

“Not only do we do this for ourselves, but we also do this for our animals, who are not allowed to work either. Animals needs to rest from their labor, just as we do. It is about taking the time to slow down, to connect with family, to connect to God and to connect to ourselves,” she added.

For Jews, the Sabbath is sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Christians traditionally observe the Sabbath on Sundays in accordance with the New Testament. Still, people don’t have to be Christian or Jewish to observe a day of rest.

Choosing a location to establish hours

The Schaffs’ decision to close Sundays partly determined where they opened up shop.

“We selected a location where we could determine our hours of operation. The malls don’t even close on Thanksgiving anymore, which is a shame since we have so much to be thankful for in this country,” Schaff said.

Terri Stine, owner of Fruits Of The Spirit Candles in Waukesha, also avoided a mall situation when locating her hand-poured candle shop.

She said she wanted “total control” over what her hours would be. Plus, downtown Waukesha with Friday Night Live and the farmers market was “very appealing” to her.

“I choose to have my business closed on Sundays because I am a Christian businesswoman and I respect that many community members consider Sunday a day of worship, rest and spending time with their families, as do I,” Stine said.

Stine does not think being closed Sundays affected her bottom line. “I think it is important to place more emphasis on our values, beliefs and relationships, rather than on materialism and making money,” she added.

Transition to Sunday closure a success for Hobby Lobby

Observing the Sabbath in a competitive retail world is not limited to small businesses. Chick-fil-A in Brookfield and Hobby Lobby in Waukesha, Menomonee Falls and West Bend also close on Sundays.

“There is a sign at the front of every Hobby Lobby store that reads, ‘Closed Sundays to allow employees time for family and worship,’” said Bob Miller, communications coordinator for Hobby Lobby.

The decision to close Sundays required serious fortitude for Hobby Lobby. Historically, Sundays had their highest sales-per-hour than any other day.

Miller said profits initially dropped when they phased in the closings. But, he said, once the transition was complete, “the company showed the highest percentage of profit in our history.”

Now, he said, “We constantly get comments from customers thanking us for closing on Sunday. Many tell us they appreciate the company letting the employees have a day of rest.”

No-Sunday hours have also been a big recruitment incentive for potential store managers, he added.