You’ve Got Them in the Store; Now What?

February 21, 2020 3 comments

We just returned from Cuba. We spent two days with a local pastor who I made the mistake of showing a picture of some of our book department on my phone. He simply looked in disbelief. They have so little.

When you travel through the tourist markets of most countries, the vendors will do anything to get you to step inside their booth and look at the wares on their table. Their persuasion is admirable and while North American shoppers prefer, for the most part, to be left alone, there is much we can learn from the hawkers’ sales techniques.

In many respects, we face the same challenge. If we can just get people in the door, we can hope they might see something that piques their interest. There are several ways we can accomplish this:

  • Things as simple as people coming in to pick up a copy of Our Daily Bread.
  • Historically, people coming in to purchase event tickets for concerts or banquets.
  • In our store, people dropping off used book donations for Christian Salvage Mission.
  • People bringing in posters to advertise upcoming church or parachurch events.
  • An attraction such as having a resident pet. This was mentioned on Christian Retail Insights last week. In my area, a used bookstore has a giant rabbit which has been running around the store for years.
  • People looking for connection or prayer.

Did I leave any thing out?

Okay, but now that they’re in the store, what do we have to offer them?

I realize that citing them right now, in light of recent events, may not be fashionable; but years ago Harvest Bible Chapel had a pamphlet listing nothing but 100 recommended titles for each of the first five years of a Christian’s life. Google “must read Christian books” and the first three results are so blatantly Reformed-biased as to disqualify them. Furthermore, I think that the sales associates in the store should be basing the recommendations on books they’ve actually read themselves and also be prepared to customize the recommendation to the person concerned.

For example, most of you probably consider Basic Christianity by John Stott and Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis to be foundational reading, but I would argue that the language in both might not appeal to readers under 30. I’ve often leaned on Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman, or if someone wants to know what good Bible exposition looks like, I’ve more recently discovered The Beatitudes by Vancouver’s Darrell Johnson.

The Harvest list included:

  • What the Bible is All About by Henriette Mears
  • The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn
  • The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
  • A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller
  • The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey
  • More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
  • My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

to which I would want to add some newer authors from the past ten years, plus, if their personal history with reading in general is a bit lacking, all the ‘visual learning’ books from Zondervan shown below.

How to accomplish this?

I was thinking of creating a shelf called “Essentials” to better showcase this type of reading. I’m also thinking of adding a section called “For Him,” and “For Her” that is distinct from our current Men’s and Women’s sections, since often books are purchased as gifts.

…In addition to tourists markets, I spent some time on the beach. I find that thinking about my store from a distance is helpful in gaining a different perspective, and it got me thinking about making a book-based connection with people who are often simply “traffic” in the shop.

Getting them in the door is great, but you need a strategy for what their literal next steps will be as they scan your shelves. To best accomplish this, you need to know your customer and know a little of their personal spiritual journey; their testimony. Then you can begin to have a book-related conversation that might begin with, “What’s a Christian book that you read which really had a lasting impact on you?”

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Hamilton, Ontario Pastor Introduces Forthcoming Title

Kevin Makins is the pastor of Eucharist Church in downtown Hamilton, Ontario and he’s chosen a unique way to introduce his forthcoming title with Baker Books; so we get to let him tell you himself! The book is Why Would Anyone Go to Church: A Young Community’s Quest to Find and Reclaim Church for Good. Release date is June 16th.

Publisher marketing:

There are plenty of reasons to criticize, judge, and even walk away from the church. Many of us have been hurt and rejected. We may see church as insular and irrelevant. Despite this, Kevin Makins believes that the church still matters–perhaps more than ever.

When Kevin was 23 and didn’t know any better, he started a congregation with some friends who were on the edge of faith. Together they hoped to discover if the church was worth fighting for. In this brutally honest account, he shares their story of becoming a community of misfits, outcasts, and oddballs who would learn that, even with all its faults, the church is worth being a part of . . . and must be reclaimed for good.

If you’ve been burned or burned out by the church, if you’ve been silenced or misunderstood, if you’ve left or never even joined in the first place, this candid, hopeful book is your invitation to consider what you miss out on when you give up on church–and what the church misses out on when it gives up on you.

Kevin Makins (MDiv, Heritage Seminary) is the founding pastor of Eucharist Church in downtown Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada, which has been recognized as one of the most creative and innovative churches in the country and spotlighted on national television and radio outlets, in newspapers, and on podcasts. A frequent speaker at conferences and churches, Kevin also performs one-man shows in bars and makes videos for thousands on YouTube. His audience includes the faithful and the skeptical, those hungry to learn, and those who just want to hear a good story. He lives in an old house downtown with his wife, kids, and housemates.

 

When a Customer Says, “I Lost My Gift Certificate”

We still use paper gift certificates. Say what you will about that, but that’s our system. We create both the voucher and a receipt, but we’re really clear at the time that they aren’t tracked, and “Don’t lose it!”

That way of doing things has served us well for 24.5 years now.

This week a customer came in and said she’d lost her daughter’s. “I think it went out in recycling;” she said. She’s been a loyal, regular customer for almost all these years, and another daughter worked for us years back.

In that moment I wanted to communicate two things.

1) We do have policies. I told her that when I explain the policy to people, they often go home and actually find the thing. The exceptions don’t really happen all that much.

2) We are a place of grace.

Despite the policies which represent equity and justice, there is room for grace. So I allowed her the purchase, and as it turned out, her daughter chose three extremely high margin sale items. (It’s nice being an outlet store as well as a full-service Christian bookstore.)

We work within a retail business model, but my hope is that we do this with love and grace.

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Popular Canadian Pastor’s 1st Book to be Reissued in 2020

The End of Religion: Encountering the Subversive Spirituality of Jesus was released by NavPress in 2007 and is still available today under the Deliberate imprint, however now there are so many more people — on both sides of the border — who know who The Meeting House teaching pastor Bruxy is.

The book is getting a jump-start later this year and I expect there will be great interest when this is released to a whole new group of readers.

Last week Bruxy posted on Twitter:

Hi Friends! I have some good news: I’m working on an Expanded Edition of The End of Religion! This is exciting for me since I have loads more to I want to share on this topic. Having said that, if you have read this book: what do YOU wish it would address in more detail??

Bruxy Cavey is also the author of re(Union): The Good News of Jesus for Seekers, Saints and Sinners, published in 2017 by Herald Press with a companion study guide released in 2018.

The Meeting House is a network of churches based in Oakville, Ontario (Greater Toronto) with 20 key locations meeting in movie theatres across the province. It describes itself as “church for people who aren’t into church” sharing “the irreligious message of Jesus.”

My review of (re)Union can be found at this link.

 

 

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Breakthrough DVD Pricing

Noticed this new pricing this morning for Breakthrough on Spring Arbor/Ingram and was all set to order, but the item is flagged ‘Available in the U.S. only.

So I looked, and behold it’s at Parasource at $21.99 CDN. (Why don’t they announce these things?) The film was $43.99 before Christmas.

Word Alive still has the movie at $35.99.

Oddly, the item is not on the Parasource consumer site.

Parasource is also offering the Mr. Rogers film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood for $35.99, though with a full trade discount; allowing stores to offer it for less.

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This Year’s Grammy Winners in Christian Categories

I hesitated for just a moment before deciding to post these again this year. Increasingly in Christian bookstores, our music sales have become irrelevant. In the last twelve months we’ve lost the $4 CD demo, bestselling music chart posters, and the Wow! CDs, which were a traffic driver in and of themselves, but also resulted in further sales for the participating artists.

Our remaining customers, those who didn’t wish to download music, are now purchasing new vehicles which lack the ability to play compact discs. (Or even mp3s, which is contributing to the erosion of our audio book category.)

So many artists are releasing their music independently, or are simply releasing songs as singles as soon as they’re recorded. Many of our customers get their music from streaming services such as Spotify, which means even our local Christian radio stations are being bypassed as part of the music marketing machine.

As a sometimes worship leader in local churches, there are albums I’d like to own by some of the newer worship communities, only to discover they haven’t released physical product. Not even for sale in their own church lobby! It’s like I can no longer be a music customer in my own store, and music was how I got into this.

I guess I’ve digressed, this was supposed to be about the Grammy Awards in the gospel and contemporary Christian categories.

I’m happy for King and Country, who appear twice on the list below, but sad for us.

Source: grammy.com

Best Roots Gospel Album

Winner

Testimony
Gloria Gaynor


Best Contemporary Christian Music Album

Winner

Burn The Ships
for KING & COUNTRY


Best Gospel Album

Winner

Long Live Love
Kirk Franklin


Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song

Winner

God Only Knows
for KING & COUNTRY & Dolly Parton


Best Gospel Performance/Song

Winner

Love Theory
Kirk Franklin


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Resource Helps Churches Walk Through a Challenging Issue

Towards the end of the summer I happened on an edition of the Unseminary podcast where Rich Birch was interviewing Texas pastor Bruce B. Miller, author of a book I was unfamiliar with, Leading a Church In a Time Sexual Questioning: Grace-filled Wisdom for Day-to-day Ministry.(Zondervan) I obtained a copy of the book but only this week completely finished reading it.

The thing I remember from the interview that day was the tremendous accommodation his church is making for visitors and regular attenders in a world of many different gender labels and complexities.

I really looked forward to reading the book but found that, in the perspective of the podcast I’d heard, it didn’t really hit its stride or have the same bite until about halfway through. I think there are a couple of reasons for that.

First of all there are things that you can quickly get into in a verbal interview that bypass laying the scriptural foundation for a particular view on issues related to LGBT+ people. He wants to begin with a theology of sexuality.

Secondly, I think it was important to the author to make clear his own position which is a traditional interpretation of key scripture passages.

But that said, especially the second point, only serves to show the tremendous grace that he and his leaders have offered to those who might be coming to his church for the first time or might be considering attending on a regular basis. The book is an excellent template for any church that is navigating these uncharted waters.

Miller draws largely from the writing of Preston Sprinkle (who wrote the foreword), Andrew Marin, Nate Collins and many others. (Lots and lots of footnotes for those who want do dig deeper.)

So how does the grace-filled response enter?

…[G]ay people are crystal clear on our church’s teaching that gay sex is wrong. In fact they go much further and imagine that we think being gay is the worst sin imaginable and that we hate them. Therefore, we have to go to great lengths to share what they do not know: that we love them and welcome them just as they are, as Jesus does. We have to say over and over that we want them here in our church family…(p.120)

And of course there’s two sides to this and so I also appreciated this quote from Kyle Idleman

“The church should not be known for outrage towards people outside of our community who need grace; we should be outraged by people inside our community who refuse to give grace.” (p.121)

Which tied in directly to this earlier statement,

We need as much grace for church people who struggle with gay people as we do for gay people who struggle with the church. (p.111)

So who it is that we’re dealing with?

…86 percent of people in the LGBT+ community reported a significant level of church involvement at some point in their childhood or teenage years. (p.118)

I also appreciated the way that he’s looking forward into the possibilities that can arise 10 or 20 years down the road from the position where are we now find ourselves. For example this comment about what happens as the gay population ages. Quoting Marin,

“What will churches do with the eighty-year-old gay man who has committed himself not only to the church but to celibacy as a theological conviction? He doesn’t have children to support him or to serve as next of kin or as power of attorney for his medical care. He doesn’t have descendants to listen to his stories or pictures of grandchildren to share with his peers. Who will be his advocate, his family, his community? It’s a reality that theologically conservative churches need to start planning for…” (p. 155)

In addition to discussion questions at the end of each chapter one feature of the book which I need to mention is found in chapter 10: A liturgy for sexual healing. This could be the basis of an entire service on this topic and there is content here that can be adapted by non liturgical churches.

I recommended this book to several people not because there aren’t other books on this topic in the market and others being written as I type this, but rather because it is written from a strong Church leadership perspective and as this issue becomes more front of mind in our churches it is the type of resource which, if I were a pastor, I would want to put in the hands of all of my key leaders and board members.


I wanted to include a section from the book on my devotional blog, Christianity 201, but that blog deliberately avoids topical issues so I found a general section which you’ll find at this link.


One more time, if you want to catch the podcast, click here.


I’ve used LGBT+ as that’s what this book uses. The author is clear at the outset that the focus is on gay and lesbian people, not transgender or “other sexual minorities.”


This was my first attempt at dictating an entire blog post into my phone. I think I caught the spelling and syntax issues, but you can let me know!

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Author’s Story Has Toronto and Vancouver Connections

January 21, 2020 2 comments

Review: God, Greed and the Prosperity Doctrine: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies

Many years ago the church which provided space for my Christian music retail, distributing and manufacturing business was also home to a daycare, a Christian newspaper, a radio ministry and a concert ministry. Among other things. And, oh yes, it was also rented by a faith healer of local renown who drew a modest crowd of about 250 people on Monday nights.

When the guy who had the radio and concert ministry got married, some of the other ‘tenants’ in the building got some rather last minute invitations, and I ended up going solo as did the faith healer. And that’s the 100% true story of how I found myself in a brief, one-on-one, subdued and superficial conversation with Benny Hinn as we both waited for the doors to open to the reception.

It was our only direct contact, but suffice it to say that every time his name was mentioned — and in the years that followed it would be mentioned frequently — I had something more than a passing interest. By the time Benny Hinn relocated to Florida, he was, depending on the values behind your metrics, a major success in the world of miracle crusade evangelism.

So I watched with interest in 2017 when word leaked out that his nephew Costi, the son of Vancouver pastor Sam Hinn, had renounced the prosperity doctrine. When the book God, Greed and the (Prosperity) Gospel was released late last year by Zondervan, I missed out on the opportunity for a pre-publication review copy, but after actually holding a copy in my hands and reading a single chapter just a few days ago, I knew I wanted to process the entire story.

I read most of the book in a single afternoon, completing it in the early evening.

The story exposes the excesses and the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by the Benny Hinn Crusade team. The private jet. The luxurious food. The $25,000/night hotel. These things were paid for by the sacrificial donations of people who could ill afford to part with the money, many times in the belief that a blessing was just around the corner if they would give.

The irony, to put it mildly, was not lost on young Costi. On a trip to India, his conscience was pricked and it set in motion a chain of events that ended with his separating himself from the family business. He studied at a Baptist seminary and now serves as Executive Pastor of Discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona and also heads a resource ministry, For The Gospel.

The book chronicles his jet-setting adventures, his choice to pursue academic study to equip himself for ministry, and his meeting the woman (now his wife) who would be part of re-orienting his thinking on many doctrinal issues. The book is roughly two-thirds narrative and one-third teaching on what he now regards as error in prosperity teaching.

He now quotes Charles Spurgeon and John MacArthur. Yes, that John MacArthur who has castigated charismatics for decades. It’s like he’s gone from one extreme to the other, out of the fire and into the frying pan, if you like.

With one exception. He’s still continuationist in his doctrine. He still believes that Jesus heals supernaturally. I’m not sure MacArthur, who is a cessationist, is fully engaged on that topic.

There’s a Q-and-A section in the back of the book which spells out his current relationship to Hinn family members. I’m betting Thanksgiving and Christmas may have some awkward moments. But he states in the introduction that he is not interested in having his book be seen as an exposé, but rather, he’s simply telling his own story.

Since the book was published, I understand that Benny Hinn has recanted at least some or all of the prosperity teaching, but we’ve seen Benny do this before (such as the idea that each member of the Godhead is itself triune) and then retract the retraction in later writing.

My devouring of the book reflects my personal interest, but I think it’s worthy of a recommendation. But maybe not for anyone who gave money to Benny Hinn. For those, reading it would be rather painful.


Book page at Zondervan: Click here

Once again, thanks to Mark at HarperCollins Christian Publications Canada for getting a copy to me so quickly!

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DCC CEO Ranks #50 on List of Highest Paid Christian Execs

Quickly scanning a list of of the highest paid Christian ministry executives released a few days ago by Ministry Watch, I encountered the name of one of our high-profile publishers, curriculum distributor David C. Cook.

Chris Doornbos is listed as having CEO salary and other compensation totaling $361,532. While that places him in position #50 on the list, it fails to provide context since we don’t know executive salaries at Zondervan, Tyndale, Baker, etc. (All figures U.S. dollars.)

Additionally, David C. Cook COO Scott Miller received $336,760.

For the groups that do relief and development charity, it also failed to provide the overall income of the organizations in question.

(For example, I had never heard of Food for the Poor, but its senior exec received $469,654, money which, the cynic in me noted, could have been spent on food for the poor. Since I was unfamiliar with their work, I wondered what the total compensation was as a percentage of the total income.)

Richard Stearns of World Vision was listed at $534,505, while at Compassion, Mark Hanlon was last on the top sixty list at $302,481.

Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries was listed at $375,672, while Philip Bowen, the CEO was listed at $371,140.

But it wasn’t the only organization listed more than once. Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice was #3 at $1,421,188, while “spokesperson” Kim Sekulow was #5 with $1,053,432, and Gary Sekulow, CEO/COO was #7 at $985,847. (And their ‘Senior Counsel’ was also on the list at #21.)

Ryan Durham of Integrity Music was listed at $312,619, position #57.

Michael Novak of the Educational Media Foundation, which operates radio station K-LOVE, ranked #17 at $580,628.  No less than ten execs from The Inspiration Networks appear on the list, including the #1 spot, but those numbers are, frankly speaking, too heartbreaking to reiterate here.

The article noted, “We are not calling this list the ’50 Highest Paid Christian Ministry Executives’ because we know that many pastors and other church leaders who might make more are not on this list, because churches are not required to make their Form 990s available to the public.” This would include The Navigators and Focus on the Family.

Also, “This information comes from the most recent Form 990 available on Guidestar.org. For some ministries the most recent year available was 2016. For most years, the most recent year available was 2017…”

Again, you may read the list for yourself at this link


Regular Readers: This is a good time to remind you to refer your friends and customers to grassroots ministries. Set an example yourself by giving not to the high profile organizations but to groups which resonate with your calling as a bookseller. Adopt some “official charities” that your store supports, promotes, or both.

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It’s Not the Price That Wins Them, It’s the Free Shipping

Amanda Mull has written an excellent article for The Atlantic which identifies a problem faced by many regular readers here, as well as our brothers and sisters who own stores like ours in the United States.

I encourage you to pick up a copy or click the header below to read the whole article online where it appears as

Stop Believing in Free Shipping.

First she identifies the problem:

There’s scarcely tastier bait for American shoppers than free shipping, and it’s been transformed from an occasional incentive into something that closely resembles a consumer requirement. But shipping isn’t free for the people who send packages, and an insatiable demand for this perk might be the thing that breaks mom-and-pop retail for good…

Then she notes it’s only going to get worse:

Early in 2020, FedEx will start delivering on Sundays all year, a service previously reserved for the holidays. In New York, where daily deliveries have tripled in less than a decade, trucks snarl streets and rack up nearly a half million parking tickets annually…

Then she explains why it works:

In a 2018 survey by Internet Retailer, shipping charges were cited as the most common reason shoppers abandon their carts… ahead of things like not wanting to create an account and being unsure of the store’s return policy. Many resent paying for shipping so much that they’ll buy more expensive items or throw in additional small stuff… just to clear a free-delivery purchase minimum…

She notes the problem is exclusive to the U.S.:

It wasn’t always like this in America, and it’s not like this in most other countries—standard European shipping and return policies would probably seem downright hostile here. That’s because U.S. shoppers are used to being coaxed into purchases by retailers who can and will bend over backwards to land a sale—another extreme of capitalism, American-style…

Later, she explains what’s in the secret sauce:

What got us to the present is Amazon Prime, the $119 annual program with more than 100 million American members, which promises unlimited two-day shipping to almost anywhere in the United States. The trick Amazon pulled off was to divorce shipping costs almost entirely from individual buying behavior by charging an annual shipping fee, then further camouflaging matters by making video-streaming services and the like part of the package…

Again, I encourage you; click here to read the entire article. Or look for it in the print edition under the headline, The Myth of Free Shipping.

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News and Notes

■ Some of your customers may be on a journey, and you can have a part in helping them reach their destination. Not everyone has a Damascus Road experience. “A study done among a group of 500 churchgoers in England who had come to faith in the previous twelve months found that almost seventy percent of them described their conversions as a gradual experience that took an average of four years. Only twenty percent described their salvation experience as dramatic or radical.”

■ A single brand: Discovery House Publishing is now Our Daily Bread Publishing. (The organization has been moving toward a single brand identification dating back to it’s ‘Radio Bible Class’ days.)

■ Nick Vujucic’s Life Without Limits reaches the 1,000,000 sales mark! It joins five other titles receiving recognition by ECPA. (see ‘Milestones’ toward the end of the January 6 update.)

■ Recommending Podcasts etc. I think sometimes we can be afraid to recommend sermons streaming on demand, podcasts, and resources like The Bible Project on YouTube. But anything that helps new Christians put things in perspective is not going to be detrimental to our retail efforts. The 41-minute Christmas series kick off sermon from December 1 by Andy Stanley to his congregation makes good back-tracking for anyone in your sphere of influence unclear as to what the incarnation is all about.

■ Thanks to Jaret at Agape Marketplace in Toronto for letting us know on the Canadian Christian Retail Insights page that P. Graham Dunn product continues to be available to Canadian retailers through Edenborough a company in Elmira, Ontario “created & founded by president, Doug Edenborough in 1983.” Jaret says they also carry Carson (many of you have purchased some of their pieces through Word Alive) but you need a login to see the catalogue…

■ …and Eerdman’s Publishing is now distributed through Fitzhenry and Whiteside. (Their website has not yet been updated to reflect this.)

■ Seven local church concerns. Thom Rainer reports on feedback from church consultants noting seven trends. Sample: #5 – “The issue of deferred maintenance is a crisis in many churches. Our consultants are reporting a number of churches that simply don’t have the funds to maintain their deteriorating facilities.” Churches in your community could be one major repair away from closure.

■ ICYMI: Our summary of the top Canadian-interest faith-related stories of 2019 which appeared at our parent blog’s weekly Wednesday Connect feature.

■ Global News reports that “Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and professor of political science at Texas Tech University, disclosed that she is both a climate scientist and an evangelical Christian, things often thought to be mutually exclusive.”

■ When people come in your store quoting from an article that you know is meant to be satirical, you need to let them down gently. Babylon Bee articles look like the real thing. And they’re quite funny. So they get shared. A lot. And people read them who don’t know it’s satire. Why that’s a problem for them, for the people referenced in their stories, and for all of us.

■ Finally, a Lent course based on Mary Poppins. (see image below) “Where The Lost Things Go is a ‘practically perfect’ Lent course for small group study – or for reading on one’s own – based on the popular film Mary Poppins Returns. Poet and minister Lucy Berry skilfully (sic) draws out some of the themes of the Oscar-nominated movie (which stars Emily Blunt, Ben Whishaw and Lin-Manuel Miranda) and shows how we can consider them more deeply alongside passages from the Bible.”

 

Creation Bookstore Barrie Closing

January 2, 2020 1 comment

In May, 2015, we reported on the purchase of the Treasure House Christian Bookstores in Newmarket, Ontario and Barrie, Ontario by Creation Bookstore of London, Ontario; with both operating under the Creation Bookstore name. Newmarket was subsequently closed and today we’re sorry to confirm that the Barrie store will shut down at the end of the month. Most of the items on its website landing page are sold out, and the fixtures are in process of being sold off, but regrettably, there is no mention of the closing on the site (a BookManager page) or any Facebook page that we could find, other than a note to other retailers about the sales of fixtures.

The wider metropolitan area of Barrie is home to just under 200,000 and is an hour commute to Toronto.

Creation Bookstore continues to operate one store in London, Ontario.

The Treasure House was founded in 1977 by Bob and Hope Fitzgibbon, with the Barrie store opening in 1985.

 

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