Christine Stafford

Christine Stafford, owner of the Flowering Tree, at her books and gift store on the 2200 block of Honolulu Ave. in Montrose on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. After more than 20 years in business, Stafford will close the store if she can't find a buyer for the business soon. ( (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / March 19, 2014)

The Flowering Tree, a Montrose fixture for religious books and gifts for nearly 60 years, is facing closure unless a new owner steps into the picture soon.

Christine Stafford bought the Honolulu Avenue business in February 1991.

Back then, it was a family-run shop since the 1950s called Bellamy’s that mainly focused on selling Catholic literature.

Shortly after making an abrupt career change from medical radiology, Stafford started stocking more books from other branches of Christianity as well as Judaism and eastern religions.

“I tried to make it an ecumenical store, so I could encompass the whole community and not just a faction of it,” Stafford said.

She also started carrying gift items such as religious ceramics, statuaries and figurines.

Because of its specialized inventory, the Flowering Tree became more of a destination shop rather than having to rely on foot traffic, Stafford said.

“I guess we’ve been a hidden jewel,” she said. “I’ve had some wonderful long-term customers who have brought in other people, which has been very good.”

But now, citing health issues, Stafford said she’s looking to retire and would like to hand the reigns of her business to someone else by selling it.

“The whole heart of this store is being a ministry to the community and I think we’ve achieved that,” she said. “I really would like to see it continue. I’d hate to see 23 years gone all of a sudden and nobody remembering it.”

Stafford said she’s come close a few times to inking a deal, but plans have fallen through at the last minute.

She is paying month-to-month through the end of April and says that if her business isn’t bought by then, she will likely pack things up.

The property’s leasing company, Trumark Real Estate Management, did not return phone calls for comment on Wednesday.

Maureen Palacios, owner of bookstore Once Upon a Time down the street, has been a longtime Flowering Tree customer, often shopping there for holiday gifts.

A friend of Stafford’s, Palacios said Montrose would stand to lose a tradition if the Flowering Tree were to shutter its doors.

“That shop has been around since the ’50s. It’s a very specialized kind of retailer,” she said. “Montrose would lose that uniqueness.”

--

Follow Arin Mikailian on Twitter: @ArinMikailian.

ALSO:

Power restored in north Glendale, La Crescenta early Wednesday

Glendale, Burbank insurance rates among the state's highest