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VOL. 127 | NO. 65 | Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Sanctuary Opens in New Location

By Aisling Maki

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Small-business owner Mary Ellen Popyk is hoping the third time’s a charm for The Sanctuary, her whole life wellness center and retail store, which just opened in a new location at 2465 Whitten Road.

In addition to a retail space that sells items such as books, handmade jewelry, original artwork, tarot cards, incense, candles and aromatherapy, The Sanctuary hosts a rotating group of experienced, certified practitioners of massage, hypnotherapy and essential oil therapy.

“It’s kind of like a buffet,” Popyk said. “If you might not like something on it or if it’s not for you, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t come; it just means you shouldn’t partake in that. Different things appeal to different people, but there’s something for everyone.”

Items and services offered focus on helping individuals find balance in their lives.

“Mind-body-spirit is about understanding that all three work together hand in hand,” said Popyk. “When one’s out of sort, the rest will be out of sort. You need to balance and heal all three.”

This is the third space for the business, which initially started in 2005, when Popyk began producing mind-body-spirit fairs that brought practitioners and vendors from around the country to Memphis.

Popyk said that for most of her life, she has been interested in spirituality and alternative beliefs. Although raised Ukrainian Orthodox, she began exploring alternative belief systems when she was about 12, but notes that wasn’t unusual where she grew up, in Central New York.

Popyk’s father, a professional speaker who works in sales and marketing, owned a chain of piano and organ stores where he regularly held special in-store events.

“We’re just starting out with some non-traditional hours. ... If there’s a need, we’ll increase to more.”

–Mary Ellen Popyk Smith, Owner The Sanctuary

When Popyk moved to Memphis several years ago, inspired by her father’s business acumen, she decided to host special events focused on her interests.

She quickly realized she wasn’t alone; many Memphians were receptive to the concept of creating a community around the “new age” mind-body-spirit awareness concept.

In 2006 she opened The Sanctuary on Stage Road in Bartlett. In addition to selling books, statuary, incense and other items, the retail store doubled as a venue for alternative belief lectures, fairs and other events.

The store later moved to Cooper-Young, but – like many small retail business – ultimately ended up being a victim of the recession. The Sanctuary closed its doors in late 2009.

“When gas went to $4 a gallon, our business came to a screeching halt,” she said.

Despite closing The Sanctuary’s physical location, Popyk continued to host fairs and events in the Mid-South. But her customers told her they missed having the gathering space for like-minded people that the store provided.

With the mainstream popularity of films like “The Secret” and television programs such as Oprah’s Lifeclass and self-help author Dr. Wayne Dyer’s PBS specials, the timing seemed right.

She decided to reopen The Sanctuary, but with a new business model.

“We’re just starting out with some non-traditional hours, being open 3 to 7 p.m. some weekdays and then Saturdays. If there’s a need, we’ll increase to more hours. We’re trying to maintain a little bit less overhead. We want to have enough things in the store so people have a good selection, but we’re not rushing into this. We’re going to see what the response is and go from there.”

The Sanctuary soft-opened at its new location in February, but a grand opening celebration is planned for Friday, April 20.

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