CRANSTON — Almost like an ear of corn, Tom Tally helps to shuck palm fronds out of their husks on a loading dock behind his family’s 135-year-old business on Pontiac Avenue, the oldest family-owned church supply store in New England. Just days before Holy Week begins in the Church, the store is bustling with pastors, deacons and faithful visiting the store, many picking up bundles of palm fronds for Palm Sunday celebrations throughout Rhode Island.
Many varieties of palms are shipped to Tally’s from Higginbotham & Sons, a supplier in Mims, Florida, each year. Tally, who helps manage the store with his brother, PJ Tally, explained that some churches order 400-500 palms, and some as many as 18,000.
“We work with a 95-year-old man who has been in the palm business for decades. He still hand writes letters to us,” Tom Tally said smiling. “Orders all depend on the size of the church and how they distribute the palms.”
“We sell as much as we ever have.”
Tally’s delivers to 100 local churches, but they also distribute hundreds of palms to New Hampshire, Maine and other areas throughout New England, many of which include Protestant denominations as well.
“Everyone thinks our busiest time is Christmas,” PJ Tally said. But from Lent leading up to the Easter season, Tally’s is hopping. “The palm season almost becomes like a second business.”
He explained that many of the Hispanic parishes have been increasing their orders of palms, based on greater attendance at Ash Wednesday Masses — a wonderful sign of an active, dynamic and diverse faith community.