For three generations, one Milwaukee family has been providing church supplies to Christian congregations throughout the United States. Dan Stemper is the president of the Stemper Company, located in Milwaukee’s Bayview neighborhood.
“We’re a small niche market business and we sell church supplies and furnishings and apparel to Christian denomination churches,” explains Stemper, standing before more than a hundred statues of Joseph, Jesus, Mary, and other angels and figures of the Nativity. Some date back to the 19th century.
Stemper’s grandfather purchased the business in 1911 from its previous owner, another statuary business founded in 1894. The whole Stemper family worked in the business.
“I come from a family of 8,” says Stemper. “So all eight of us at one time have worked here. Five of the brothers out of the six are equal owners of this business today.”
The business has hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory. Despite all the statues, candles are the number one product. The Stemper Company has more than 1100 different candles.
“These are communion trays, the offering plates or collection plates, the common cups, the intinction sets, the subor- the open suborias, the flagons, the sickle sets, the chalices, flower stands, flower pots. Cruets, and candlesticks, and bells and altar crucifixes, altar crosses, it’s just a never ending supply,” says Stemper.
They also do restoration work.
“We sell chalices new, we restore old; we sell new candlesticks, we can restore the old. We sell new tabernacles, we can restore the old. Anything made of brass or bronze can pretty much be restored,” says Stemper.
While it is a business with profit goals, Stemper finds it fills spiritual needs as well.
“I find that it definitely enhances my faith life. I’m Catholic. I’m born and raised Catholic,” says Stemper. “I think that I’m doing a service to the church.”