Just about 10 years ago, Will Keller moved Monastery Greetings, the monastery-themed mail order business he runs, out of his home and into an office space in an old torpedo factory in Glenville. Since then, he's expanded to the point that his business now takes up several rooms in the building.
"It was very hard starting the business to begin with," he says one recent afternoon as he walks through the various storage spaces he uses to store everything from Trappist beer to dog treats. "It took about two years. I was on the outside. The other thing is that a lot of people have tried it before and failed." Eventually, Keller won the trust of numerous monasteries and started giving them another outlet for selling their products. He now stocks items such as "Pope's Cologne," a cologne based on what Pope Pius IX wore. "It's very citrusy," Keller says.
He stocks face cream made by nuns off the coast of Norway and goat's milk soap made by monks in West Virginia. Keller says half his business is food, and he sells about 1,600 products and works with some 75 monasteries around the world. When the former Sister Mary Assumpta needed help launching Nun Better, her famous cookie-baking business, she called upon Keller and he helped her with shipping and marketing.
"When I started the business, I was a lot broader. I was looking at all religious denominations," he says. "I was selling potpourri made by the Shakers up in Maine. I was doing some business with the Amish. I learned in the world of marketing in religious retail that ecumenical and interfaith doesn't sell. You have to have a niche and people need to connect with some tradition. You can't think we're all one big happy family." — Jeff Niesel