There’s not much sinning to be done in Burbank. There are more than a dozen churches in the city, and while nearby North Hollywood boasts six strip clubs (even conservative Glendale has a gentleman’s club), the only breasts you’ll see in Burbank are dipped in batter and fried at the local Hooters. But don’t walk into the God Shop Gallery and expect to be converted or saved, or even asked to take a personality test. For four years, Christine Martin and Joe Couillard have been running the shop out of Martin’s home as a sort of a nondenominational spiritual center rather than a place for religious experiences.
“If you’re looking for quiet and peace and serenity, walk through my doors,” says Martin, extending the invitation to everyone from the local churchgoers to the kooky curiosity-seekers.
She’ll even offer you a free cup of coffee. Unlike most people who live in a big city, Martin has that rare attitude of a Buddhist monk and the patience of a saint, or someone who simply doesn’t like to look out the window and prefers it that way. And that’s not easy when you’re living right next door to an EZ Lube.
“I just want to get the words ‘Trust God’ back into peoples’ mind-set,” she says, referring to the shop’s outdoor neon sign. “And I call him God because I simply don‘t know what else to call him.”
So no speechifying or chapter-and-verse quoting. Just the smell of incense wafting throughout the house and some gifts, knickknacks and all-around good-vibe positivity.
The shop prints its own T-shirts, and the front yard has a rack of them for sale, emblazoned with words like “Liberate God Within,” “Got God?” and “All One God.” There are candles, coffee mugs, baseball caps, Frisbees, replicas of rosaries found in the Vatican Library Collection and paintings by local artists; plus, self-help books and recovery literature. The only thing missing are a couple of dreadlocked Hackey Sack players.
Martin and Couillard, who works for a major film studio, started collecting the merchandise at yard sales. And while much of the stuff is leaning on the Anglo-Christian faith, you can also find Spanish-language books, Buddhas and even a Star of David clock. Martin hopes to add some more Hindu deities, too, and whatever else that will get you back on the spiritual superhighway.