Oakville Store Closing Leaves a Void in Greater Toronto

Just weeks after the closing of Family Christian Bookstore in Burlington comes official word that Good Books in Oakville will be shutting its doors for the last time on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, October 9th. This leaves a huge hole in the western part of the GTHA (Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area) with no stores in Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville or Mississauga. A similar situation exists on the east side, with no Christian bookstores in Pickering, Ajax, or Whitby, though there are a handful of Chinese Christian stores and a Catholic store in Scarborough.

Good Books was started by the Bronson family. Andrew Bronson also managed the bookstore at what is now Tyndale College and Seminary, and has spent the last several decades employed by InterVarsity Press in greater Chicago.

The store was purchased by its current owners in 1991 and has employed over 50 part-time staff over a history spanning four different locations.

The sad news of the closing was posted on the store website:

It is our deep regret to inform you that Good Books will be closing its doors on Thanksgiving Saturday, October 9th, 2021. We have been informed by Metrolinx that our building is to be expropriated on October 16 and subsequently to be demolished.

Metrolinx is the umbrella organization integrating municipal transit systems with the province’s GO Train network. Many other longtime businesses in the GTHA have been similarly affected.

Had this not occurred, Good Books might have been able to pick up the customers created by the Burlington store closing, but now, if customer buying trends swing back to brick-and-mortar purchasing, someone will establish a new venture in a new location serving both that city and Oakville.

We congratulate the Acheson and Kiervin families on a job well done, and wish the best to them as well as longtime employees Mary Chester and Konni Jones.

 

 


Customer tributes from Facebook:

  • You have been a blessing to myself and my family more than I could express in words!!! Loved being a part of the ‘good books’ family! Your generosity, love and example of Christ’s love for all has beyond shinned to everyone who has walked through those doors!
  • Thank you for all the years you gave us such a wonderful place to find good Christian books, music, cards and so much more. You will certainly be missed.
  • What a legacy you’ve created. Sad to see it end but happy for the years your store has influenced and blessed so many people. Thanks to everyone who worked at Good Books for your years of loving service.
  • I will miss the personal recommendations I could always count on for a good read or special gift. Thank you for your many years of faithful service.
  • Your store has meant a lot to me, and my dad, who recently passed away. What a gift to have such a wonderful Christian bookstore in the neighborhood.
  • Oakville won’t be the same without Good Books. What a significant and positive impact you have made to the community. Thank you for all of the years.

Today We Launch Year 15 of Christian Book Shop Talk

There were probably more of us in business when Christian Book Shop Talk launched on the last week of August, 2008. In the days that followed we would learn the value of having this information conduit, as the largest supplier succumbed to bankruptcy, and in the years that followed, a dozen key Christian wholesale companies would close or be absorbed by other companies; along with the country’s largest Christian retail chain.

There are few of us left now. Trade sales are no longer a significant part of what two of our key suppliers are focused on, with direct consumer sales occupying most of their attention.

We often use the Canadian Christian Retail Insights group on Facebook now to report things which might have formerly deserved an article here. Changes in our industry simply impact fewer and fewer people when measured by the number of store owners and bookstore staff.

However, what some might see as retail transactions are continuing to impact lives. This morning, as I shared some Bible basics with a customer, my son overheard the conversation and reminded me of the difference we’re making in our community.

Here’s to more days of effective and fruitful ministry for all of us who remain.

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Ottawa Church Tests a New Christian Bookstore Paradigm

Imagine a store where everything is on a donation basis. Now imagine a mix of used and new products. Now add to that Bibles, not just economy Bibles, but a focus on high-end, high-quality Bibles. Is such a store viable?

The Upper Room at Calvary Ottawa is an initiative of Calvary Fellowship, part of the Calvary Chapel family of churches. In an interview with Spur Ottawa, pastor Andy Falleur explained the vision:

There was nowhere in Ottawa to buy a Bible other than Chapters… There is nowhere you can go where there are Christians. I don’t think it should be like that… We see people from all kinds of different denominations and we get the crossover. That is an important space. It is good and healthy for the Christian community, as a whole. The other thing is that churches are always closed. We need places that are open where you can get resources and where someone is going to pray for you.

Spur Ottawa also spoke to the church administrator, Sharon Weir:

We decided to go with Bibles that are premium, not Bibles you would buy off Amazon… Whether you are looking for the 1611 version of the King James Bible or a preaching version of the Christian Standard Bible, the Upper Room has you covered. I don’t know of a translation we do not currently have. We try to have a $10 all the way up to a $300 version of every translation.

Full disclosure: Steve and Sharon Weir worked with me at Searchlight Lindsay, and Steve helped us find our location there. They spoke with me about three years ago about this vision, and always at the centre of it was Bibles.

But how do you sell a $300 Bible on a donation basis?

They key seems to be a “suggested donation” which is at least 20% below list price. They also take in used Bibles.

Calvary Chapel churches vary in shapes in sizes, but the one common denominator is consecutively preaching through the Bible, verse by verse. Once they reach that final sentence in Revelation 22, the next Sunday usually returns to Genesis 1. The emphasis on Bibles is therefore not surprising.

The new bookselling venture also has an endorsement from Gerry Organ, former CFL placekicker who played over a decade with the Ottawa Roughriders.

Pastor Falleur would probably dispute this story’s headline, telling Spur Ottawa,

We are not a bookstore, we are a church with some resources that we are making available to the wider Christian community. We are just getting going, but it’s been a joy talking to people, praying for them, and in some cases having them pray for me.

It will be interesting to see how this model works.

TV News Anchor’s Other Life as Children’s Author

Ever played the game that ends, “Oh that’s where I’ve heard that name before?” Turns out Linsey Davis, who I see on weekends at ABC-TV World News Tonight is the same Linsey Davis who has done three books for Zondervan (actually Zonderkidz), with a fourth book due mid-February.

  • The World is Awake (2018 hardcover, 2019 board book)
  • One Big Heart: A Celebrating of Being More Alike Than Different (2019 hardcover, 2021 Spanish)
  • Stay This Way Forever (2021 hardcover)
  • How High is Heaven (2022 hardcover)

So while there’s no Canadian angle to this story I’m aware of, I thought you might enjoy watching this 8-minute interview.

 

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Well-Researched Pastor Ignites Passion for Christian Books

I first met Jon Rising when we moved to our present home about 32 years ago. A native of Port Huron, Michigan, Jon has lived in Cobourg, Ontario, in Florida, and several years ago moved to Vancouver in order to complete a Masters degree in Theology at Regent College. Over the years, Jon has proven to be an excellent resource person on Pentecostal history (particularly the Latter Rain Movement) and Bible reference material. He’s been sharing a number of personal reflections on Facebook, and I thought that this one, with his permission, deserved to be here as well.

by Jon Rising

I started buying and reading books – lots of books – roughly 50 years ago. Few things have brought me as much pleasure. And I remember exactly how it got started.

It was prompted by the ministry of Pastor James Beall… [T]hough he was well-read, it isn’t that he advocated rushing to the bookstore and buying armfuls of books.

His ministry stimulated an interest in reading because I could tell his sermon preparation was more extensive than other preachers. He had information in his sermons that they didn’t.

In Pentecostalism, there are plenty of preachers who work themselves into a lather, but if you listen closely, that kind of preaching is trite and thin on insight.

If we make an analogy to eating, it’s like getting served nothing but boiled potatoes at every meal. Nourishing to a degree, but lackluster and with nothing to make you look forward to the next meal.

Pastor Beall, just like the great evangelical preaching mentor Haddon Robinson, knew how to set out a gourmet meal. The basics were always present, but it was also the presentation and spices that brought delight.

Biblical background information comprised a lot of his ‘extras.’ And I knew instinctively where he got that stuff – books. I mean, you can pray all night, but the Lord is not going to download the historical setting of ancient Middle Eastern people into your mind. The same with the literary devices they used or nuances of the languages they spoke. You get those extras – and much more – from books.

Since you and I didn’t live 2,000 years ago, we need the expertise of those who have carefully researched those times so that we may have a better sense of what the Biblical messages meant when they were first written.

It must have been that I said things to my mother and my pastor, Belle Barber, that alerted them to the fact that Jonnie was starting to think about things other than baseball cards and batting averages. I don’t really recall.

But, what I do recall is that on my birthday both of them bought me an uncommon gift for a 15-year-old (this happened without them consulting each other).

From my mother I received the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary and from Pastor Barber I received Adam Clarke’s one-volume commentary on the Bible. Those were good foundational resources for a teenager to begin serious study of the Bible. And I couldn’t have been happier.

That’s the sweet spot of gift giving, isn’t it?! When you give someone something that is both unexpected and yet the perfect item for them.

And so it began. After buying myself a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, additional acquisitions were determined as the result of thumbing through books in Bible bookstores and taking home what seemed to provide answers to questions that arose in my Biblical studies.

But, a novice book buyer might not know whether he’s taking home the writing of a fair-minded scholar or that of a polemicist with a theological ax to grind. Such a buyer might also have a difficult time discerning expert scholarship from shoddy scholarship so poor it does not deserve the label, scholarship.

In time, books by Joseph Allison, Cyril Barber, and David Bauer would become like trusted, constant companions. All three of them had written books recommending worthwhile Biblical study resources. That trio are not (and were not even then) the final word on what are worthwhile and trustworthy resources, but their books were a place to a start (especially so I would not go broke drilling, as it were, dry holes – i.e., buying books that just collected dust on the shelf).

Two big breakthroughs in the building of my library occurred when I acquired books by Edward Goodrick and Gordon Fee (I was an adult by this time).

Goodrick’s book, enticingly named, Do It Yourself in Hebrew and Greek: A Guide to Biblical Language, did not make me an expert in Hebrew or Greek, but it did, in addition to the rudimentary language information, point me in the direction of F. F. Bruce, who was back then the foremost evangelical Biblical scholar.

Goodrick said he bought everything Bruce wrote. I began to do the same and was never disappointed. My Biblical studies and library now had some traction…

This is part of a series which continues with Jon reflecting on the of influence Gordon Fee.

Are Canadian Christian Bookstores Too White?

It wasn’t a direct question from the customer, but a comment that got me thinking.

I started doing a mental inventory of the number of BIPOC authors we have in our store. Musicians, easier; writers, much more challenging.

My store isn’t in a large urban centre. Many smaller town Christian bookstores are located in areas where are very WASP-ish, and even if the ‘P’ (for Protestant) is no longer relevant, the ‘W’ for white, and the ‘AS’ for Anglo-Saxon definitely applies. To that end, I think my inventory matches the demographics of my community, but I do get customers from the GTA (or as it’s now expressed, the GTHA).

The other challenge is that Charismatic authors no longer drive book sales to the same degree they once did. Many black Christian authors are also Pentecostal or Charismatic.

Still, our industry in Canada is largely an extension of the American Christian book industry, and I was surprised when I started to survey the various departments in my store, the short-list was, well, very short. Almost embarrassingly short; and I am unaware of harbouring any bias or prejudice when it comes to making inventory purchasing decisions.

ChristianBook.com has a listing for Black Christian Authors. I compared that list to my inventory, and I must confess, I did not recognize at least half of the names. At the ECPA list, accessed today, there were three African American authors who stood out, and one Hispanic. So this isn’t just a Canadian thing.

What about your store? Does your collection of books on offer match the demographics of your city or town?

I’d like to think I could be doing better.

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An Open Letter to the Makers of Bible Cases

To the Makers of Bible Covers,

I’m sure your research is showing you that the world needs one more Bible case that says “Blessed” on the cover, but if you wanted to do something really practical, why not some tasteful art listing the books of the Bible in order?

When the pastor says, “Take your Bible and turn to the book of _________ …” someone new at all this could glance at the cover, and then have an idea where to start looking.

Sincerely,

Your customer.

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Toronto Author’s Second Book With Moody Publishers

Several years ago, Darryl Dash left a church in Toronto’s northwest suburbs to plant a church in Liberty Village, a community consisting almost exclusively of office towers and residential condominiums; moving into the neighbourhood at the same time.

His new book, 8 Habits for Spiritual Growth: A Simple Guide to Becoming More Like Christ, is in many respects a sequel to How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All of Your Life, as it arrives almost exactly three years to the day of that book, also with Moody Publishers, and also focuses on spiritual growth. 

His primary constituency is people who read modern reformed writers such as Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, John Piper, John MacArthur, etc. He’s also a longtime blogger at DashHouse.com.

Publisher Marketing:

Don’t just do the right actions. Build habits–and watch your life be transformed.

Many books try to help you do the right actions. But the real key to life transformation–for yourself and then for others–is building habits that become part of your life. Because habits don’t just dictate what you do. They reflect who you are.

In 8 Habits for Growth, Darryl Dash wants to show you the eight long-term practices–all very doable–that will lead to permanent growth if you incorporate them into your life. You’ll learn why it’s important to:

  • Make time
  • Rest
  • Read or listen to the Bible
  • Pray
  • Pursue worship and community in a church
  • Care for your body
  • Simplify your spiritual life
  • Build a rule of life

Personal growth doesn’t happen overnight. But it does happen, slowly, as you build God’s habits into your life. So what are you waiting for? Start your new habits today and let God transform who you are . . . and who you can become.

272 pages; $14.99 US; ISBN 9780802423658; August 3rd release

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Literature Professor’s Critique of Christian Publishing

Karen Swallow Prior is a professor of English literature, but she’s not an outsider to our industry, in fact, you may have some of her books on your shelves.

In a recent episode of The Phil Vischer Podcast, she is interviewed by Skye Jethani and covers material from a recent address she gave to the Evangelical Press Association about “Christian publishing’s addiction to celebrity and lack of integrity. But who’s really to blame—Christian book publishers, or Christian book consumers?”

To respect your time, and save you from a lot of silliness, skip (fast-forward) past the banter to 46:00 or use this YouTube link. Audio-only of the podcast is available from the usual podcast sources. (Total time from that point is 36 minutes.) 

This will also be of interest to the aspiring writers who sometimes drop by Book Shop Talk.

Iconic BC Bookstore Sold

Located in a former car dealership, House of James is impressive from the moment you enter.

A store in Abbotsford, British Columbia that has been at the forefront of progressive marketing of Christian books and music will continue operating even as owner Lando Klassen announces his retirement. The announcement was posted on the store website:

The House of James bookstore and coffeehouse has a new owner.  Yes, Lando Klassen is retiring and Pierre Dery, assistant manager for over 30 years, is buying the store. This is a very positive event. The dynamic, knowledgeable and customer oriented staff will keep the House of James growing and changing. Pierre says, “I’m excited about the future. I have a great team and look forward to continuing the House of James legacy.”

Finally getting to see House of James was a highlight of our trip out west exactly two years ago. I shared a photo essay of our visit here at Book Shop Talk.

Lando Klassen enjoying a treat from the store’s coffeehouse.

As I tried to edit the store’s announcement, I found myself not wanting to leave anything out as it is beautiful telling of its history.

The House of James bookstore began in Mission, B.C. in 1973. It was the evolution of a coffeehouse drop-in centre that was birthed in July of 1970 by a group of young people aged 15 – 25 and a few pastors.

The store began in a small space about 12 ft by 50 with a residence in the back where the 19 year old Lando Klassen lived.

Beginning with $700 in the bank and a donation can out front to help pay rent he focused on bringing in current Christian books and the latest in a new music genre called Christian rock. As the store grew the residence was turned into a display and office area.

1976 saw a move to a much larger location, still in Mission. Then in 1983 Lando and his staff moved the store to Abbotsford where sales exploded. Fresh stock, current relevant books, and, of course, a massive selection of contemporary Christian music brought new customers in from near and far.

Computerization began in 1990 and dramatic growth continued.  A move to its current location on Emerson Street took place over an early May weekend, in 1997. With 80 customers, family, and staff volunteering their time we finished at about 1 am on Sunday morning. Astonishing support.

The sales graph continued to show an upward curve. However the attraction of online shopping and the invention of music streaming negatively affected the book, Bible and music industry, especially in the early 2000’s.

Undaunted by this, in 2008 the House of James expanded the back of the building adding two stories with approximately 5400 square feet to make room for a full service coffeehouse/entertainment venue and a larger used book department. After some years of decline House of James has grown again especially in the coffeehouse, toys, gifts and used book departments.

The House of James bookstore and coffeehouse has proven to be adaptable and the future looks strong. Lando says, “We are grateful to our amazing staff and customers and believe they will continue to make this place a community hub.”

Lando and Kathy Klassen accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Gospel Music Association.

Over the years Lando Klassen’s commitment to excellence has been recognized by various organizations: 2000 Store of the Year by the Christian Booksellers Canadian Chapter, 2001 Store of the Year for Western Canada by the Christian Booksellers Association, 2013 Lifetime Industry Achievement Award by the Gospel Music Association Canada. (This is the only time a retailer has received this award.)

We congratulate Lando Klassen on a race well run and wish him the best in retirement.

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Will 9/11 Anniversary Impact Christian Publishing?

September 11, 2001 I was a few minutes late to open the store. The car radio was tuned to 680 News Toronto so I could hear the tone and measure my exact lateness, and as they came up the hour — my definite signal that I was truly late — they didn’t do their audio logo to kick off the next half-hour cycle. That signified to me that they were following an important breaking story.

I pulled into our parking lot and fortunately nobody was waiting, so I sat in the car an extra minute to try to discern what was being described. A plane flew into the World Trade Centre. I couldn’t wrap my mind around that at all. I heard the words, but it didn’t seem real.

Instead of starting up the CD-player in the store, I switched to the radio. One station, and then another. After about 25 minutes, I phoned my wife who was at home. “Turn on the television;” I told her.

She asked what station.

“It won’t matter;” I responded. “You’ll see it.”

Hard to believe it’s been 20 years. With the pandemic uppermost in our minds, I didn’t consider that we were reaching that anniversary. A number of books were published in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy with the cover images you would expect. Other books dealing with God’s place in the midst of suffering saw a resurgence. Where indeed was God when it hurts? It was a fair question.

But on Monday I noticed a reference to it in the timing of the newest release —non-fiction this time — from Joel Rosenberg. It’s no coincidence that Enemies and Allies releases just days earlier, on September 7th. The subtitle will prove too long to include in most advertising, but for the record it’s An Unforgettable Journey Inside the Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East.

Tyndale House advance publicity reads:

Do recent changes in the Middle East signal peace? One Arab country after another is signing historic, game-changing peace, trade, investment, and tourism deals with Israel. At the same time, Russia, Iran, and Turkey are forming a highly dangerous alliance that could threaten the Western powers. Meanwhile, the U.S. is drawing down its military forces in the Mideast and focusing on matters closer to home. Where’s it all heading?

New York Times bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg, based in Jerusalem, skillfully and clearly explains the sometimes-encouraging, sometimes-violent, yet rapidly shifting landscape in Israel and the Arab/Muslim world. Enemies and Allies will take readers behind closed doors in the Middle East and introduce them to the very kings and crown princes, presidents and prime ministers who are leading the change.

Yes, Canadian store owners and managers, there is an ITP for this title, available through WordAlive using ISBN 9781496463081.

It was a quote from Rosenberg himself that connected the dots between 9/11/01 and 9/11/21 and you can read that fuller interview at Monday’s edition of Rush to Press.

“What happens in the Middle East – for better or worse – affects the entire world,” said Rosenberg. “The Middle East and North Africa are the epicenter of the momentous events that are shaking our world and shaping our future. Two decades after the horrific terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, which shifted our focus to the Middle East yet again, the region is undergoing sweeping, historic, tectonic transformations. We ignore them at our peril…”

”…What is needed is context. That is why I wrote this book. I will take you inside Royal Courts and capitals and introduce you to the most powerful figures in the region. Love them or hate them, these are the players driving the change. These are the leaders to keep an eye on.

There was also a helpful summary of Rosenberg’s work:

Having started his career as a political aide in Washington, D.C., today Rosenberg, an evangelical Christian with a Jewish heritage, lives in Jerusalem. He is a New York Times bestselling author of 15 novels and five nonfiction books and serves as Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the news platforms, All Israel News and All Arab News. He also hosts the podcast, “Inside The Epicenter With Joel C. Rosenberg.”

Yes, Giftware Producers; Marks are Taken Off for Spelling

One of my American friends found this in the discount bin at Hobby Lobby, marked 70% off.

But should it be sold at all? And how many were produced?

During my two short stints helping the Canadian Bible Society get product out the door (because I had worked as warehouse manager at IVP) any Bible which had the least defect was placed in a room within the warehouse. These were occasionally taken home by staff and at least one staff member removed pages and mounted them as wall décor. You might argue that yes, Bibles should be in a different category.

But this one? At least it wasn’t someone’s tattoo.

It’s not the worst, though. That honour belongs to Abbey Press, for its “You have blessed the work of his hands” series of Father’s Day products, including a pair of work gloves we still have at the store. The text is taken from Job 1:10

“Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.”

Good verse for Dads? It’s actually the devil speaking. Christian bookstores all around North America selling products containing a verse the writer of Job says is unmistakably the words of Satan.

Abbey Press was contacted twice at the time, and did nothing to remove the product.

 

 

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