Report from Abbotsford: Life in the Flood Zone

Though hardly a “new arrival” to the store himself, Pierre Déry took over ownership of House of James this summer.

Given all that we’ve been hearing about the flooding and landslides in Abbotsford, we reached out to Pierre Déry, the new owner of House of James to see how they’re coping. This was his reply:

Hello from the flood lands of British Columbia,

In September as I was quoting a school on a large order I added, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the disclaimer “barring any natural disasters, wildfires and plagues”, never considering that this could become such a reality in our area. The impact of the recent storm to House of James is comparatively minor as we are not located in a low-lying area so the it is felt in less direct ways. We have had to close the coffee-house for a couple of days a week as two key staff live in Chilliwack which has been isolated by flood waters and landslides. We’ve been able to open a couple days each week with limited menu when other staff are available.

Beyond this, we have not received any product for the last 10 days because of the road closures. Invoices are coming in for product that might be on trucks or in warehouses, waiting for access to open up and couriers are not picking up goods bound for this area as it will only clog their systems, in fact they aren’t currently picking up outgoing parcel either.

Locally many roads are a mess including secondary highways linking many towns, resulting in long traffic-crawls on overloaded secondary arteries and a multitude of detours. My own commute has gone from 15 minutes to an hour, with new twists at every trip. Through it all we have maintained reasonable sales in the bookstore and life goes on, just a bit differently as our normals are shaken.

We are very thankful that the Sumas Prairie pump was successfully repaired thans to the efforts of hundreds of volunteers who worked late in to the night building a protective wall of sandbags to prevent it from being overwhelmed which would have made the situation much, much worse. Similiarly as we face 3 more waves of ‘atmospheric rivers’ beginning tonight, we pray that in the Lord’s mercy, He would spare us further affliction.

In the midst of this we remember Psalm 145:9 ‘The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are all over His works.’

While we in touch, we decided to also ask Pierre how things are going as the new owner of the store. He wrote:

As we expressed to our customers in our Christmas catalog greeting: ”Having a bookstore in these troubled times isn’t for the faint-hearted but just like David when he faced Goliath, we’re not looking at the opposition, we’re looking at Who has called us to this work and trusting that He will provide what’s needed to accomplish it.”  

You might detect that I’m approaching this with a sense of ’calling’ and you would be right and this gives me great comfort and strength in the face of seemingly endless challenges.  Indeed the last five months have been a series of challenges but many of these are turning out to be opportunities to improve and adjust to become better.

In such turbulent times, staffing has proven to be difficult and I’m very proud of how our staff has pulled through and persevered in the face of so many difficulties to maintain a high level of service. I’m still looking to replace myself as I step into Lando [Klassen’s] role but in the meantime it’s a stretch. That said, I’m really enjoying the opportunity to carry on a great work. My purpose if that God will be honoured and lifted up in what we do.

As you hear reports on the news about this region, remember Pierre and the staff of House of James in your prayers.

Categories: Uncategorized

Durham Christian Bookstore Closing

In May of 2018, we reported on the acquisition of Durham Christian Bookstore by Meredith and Jason Chin, and then in July that year we celebrated completion of their move from Bowmanville, Ontario to Oshawa. That store is now slated to close the first week in January.

Reading their customer letter containing their closing announcement Friday night hurt on two fronts.

First, having just reported yesterday the closing of Attwell Books on the west side of Toronto, and now hearing of a closing on the east side of the GTA (and keeping in mind that this is on the heels of closings in Oakville and Burlington) this is a reminder of how under-served Canada’s largest city (and its environs) are right now when it comes to brick-and-mortar Christian retailers.

The part of the country that least requires the assistance of online vendors (because so many people are within driving distance of so many places) is now the area most dependent on online vendors.

For those familiar with the “Bible Belt” that is Western Ontario (and the Prairies), you need to also know that Eastern Ontario is very different. Years ago we sponsored a series of advertisements in Faith Today Magazine that we captioned, “Name a Mission Field Which Starts With the Letter ‘K.'” (It wasn’t Kenya.) We wanted to highlight that, at the time, there were less than 100 churches in the ‘K’ postal code (which takes in Peterborough, Ottawa, Kingston, Belleville, etc.) which would have had more than 100 adults present at their Sunday morning service. Eastern Ontario is very much a mission field.

Second, the announcement resonates because Durham Christian Bookstore is the closest neighbouring store to my own. I know the city, and I know the challenges they face because I feel them every day. 

Here’s the text of their announcement. 

Unfortunately, we have some very sad news to announce. As many of you are aware, the recent lockdowns imposed on us have caused a great deal of harm to many small businesses. We are no exception. We have been spending many hours praying, discussing, strategizing what we should do, and we took this as far as we knew to take it until there were no other options. We have begrudgingly had to sell our building, and the last day that we will be open at this location will be January 8, 2022.

We are very sad and feel a deep sense of loss and grief. What makes this situation even more difficult is how so many of you were so kind to express to us how much this store meant to you and the community. We have had the privilege of hearing your story, praying with you and are so blessed to have so many opportunities to both give and receive words of hope and encouragement to and from you.

We understand that Christian Bookstores appear to be disappearing from every city in this country of ours, and it seems like the enemy is winning, but remember – he has already lost, and we have already won.  Therefore, we want to assure you that we have not given up – and fully intend to keep fighting.

So, moving forward, we will remain thankful, we will pray, we will seek the face of Jesus, and remain hopeful that a day will come when we will get a second opportunity to open another “brick and mortar” store – somewhere, somehow, soon. 

However, while you can feel their pain, as with the story we reported yesterday, this one contains the hope that all is not final.

Our website and our phones will continue to operate as usual (we are so thankful for this), we are looking at the possibility of lowering prices even further, doing free shipping to anywhere in Durham region, and we will continue to maintain a presence in the community at conferences and shows.

And then some words which I believe are written not only for their customers, but for all of us, and the industry as a whole:

We are so very thankful for you and be assured that we recognize and understand the need for a Christian Bookstore in not only Durham region but in every city and small town in Canada. That is our vision, and that remains our vision regardless of what the situation tells us.

Please remember, we are not going away completely….we are taking a step back so that we can come back even stronger!

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Attwell Books Closing

For regular readers here, the closing of a church-based Christian bookstore may not appear as significant as other closings we’ve covered, but the announced closing, even if temporary, is significant on a number of fronts.

First, as our friends at The Christian Herald pointed out, the closing of Attwell Books means that if you start at Agape Christian Marketplace in northwest Toronto and head toward Niagara Falls on the Queen Elizabeth Way, you’re not going to encounter another Christian bookstore until you reach Heritage Bookstore in St. Catharines.

Second, the host church itself, Catch the Fire has a long history, having been the site of the Toronto Blessing, and as the former Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship and before that as The Toronto Airport Vineyard. (The bookstore takes its name from the street address of the church.)

Third, while you would see some familiar titles at Attwell Books, the focus was on prophetic/charismatic authors, with some books (and music) imported from the UK and not available elsewhere, and other titles purchased direct from authors. Their closest online competition would have been The Elijah List, a site which was known among Pentecostals and Charismatics for their book recommendations. Attwell’s tag line on Twitter is “Proudly charismatic since 1994.”

Finally, although Catch the Fire is a church, it has also served as the host of many significant conferences, and conference attendees always bring extra spending money for whatever merchandise is on offer. At Attwell, they could be guaranteed to find the type of author with which they are attuned.

The closing announcement indicated that Sunday, November 21st is the last day, although some limited product selection will be made through the church coffee bar.

Perplexing in the announcement however, is the use of the word “temporarily.” When is a closing not a closing? It seems they’re hedging their bets and we might see a re-birthed bookstore at that location at some point in the future.


Photo image: Catch The Fire on Facebook
Special thanks to Tim Underwood and Fazal Karim

Categories: Uncategorized

A Fresh Addition to Any Apologetics Library

Book Review: Person of Interest by J. Warner Wallace.

This is the fourth time it’s been my privilege to review one of J. Warner Wallace’s books, and while each one makes a compelling case for Christianity, I would propose that the set of four, taken together, provides an almost irrefutable, undeniable case for Jesus being all he claimed to be.

As in his previous titles, the skills of Wallace’s work as a cold case detective provide a motif for the spiritual issues under discussion. This time around it’s a single case: the disappearance and probable murder of a woman named Tammy. In this situation, a body was never located, which makes it the most difficult type of cold case to investigate.

This time around however, on the other side of the analogy is the author’s own faith journey, from atheist to believer. The very personal aspect of this makes it very similar to Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ.

In Person of Interest: Why Jesus Still Matters in a World That Rejects the Bible (Zondervan, 2021) Wallace explains that there are two critical sets of factors at play in a potential murder investigation, and in a critical look at the life of Christ.

He sorts these things using the imagery of a bomb exploding. The first type of these factors includes noteworthy things leading up to the “event,” which he calls the fuse. Then, everything that happens after, he terms the fallout. A longer fuse and greater fallout lead more clearly to the establishing of a person of interest.

What therefore sets this book apart from other apologetic resources is the emphasis on the particular time and place in history that Jesus occupied, and the spinoff effects including influences in diverse things like art, architecture, literature, sculpture, etc.

Included on the fallout side is the thorny issue of the capital-C Church’s relationship with science, and the influence Christianity has had on other religions, including religions which were founded before the birth of Jesus. It’s a courageous, outside-the-box perspective, and while one might argue that the reverberations from Christ’s life aren’t any more significant than the cultural echoes from, for example, The Beatles, added together, his documentation of such effects make Person of Interest a unique resource.

The book is also peppered with the usual illustrations provided by the author himself which are a hallmark of all of his titles. It does make for faster reading, especially if you process things visually. Some of these however are a bit repetitive, and most require a visit to the website to view more clearly, as the reproduction in the book is rather fuzzy. Several of the footnotes — 54 pages of them in a 312 page paperback — direct the reader to examine these images in detail online, along with selected case notes.

Wallace paints with broad strokes and a few times, I thought the finished work could have been tightened up a little. In the section on architecture he stated that the early followers of Jesus “lacked financial patronage,” (p131) but in fact, this was exactly Theophilus’ role in underwriting the research for the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.

In a section concerned with the early church’s role in fostering education, he mentioned The Didache and referred to it having a “question and answer” format (p160) when in fact it does not follow that catechism method. These are things I’m willing to overlook, however.

I’m not sure that I would use Person of Interest as an initial reading suggestion for someone interested in Christian believe — though a week from now I might do that with one particular person I am meeting — but as a supplement to Wallace’s first book, Cold Case Christianity, it would prove to be a good complementary resource.

A free preview excerpt of Person of Interest, consisting of the introduction and first chapter is available at this link.

If you appreciate the study of Christian apologetics and already own a handful of resources, consider this. I guarantee you don’t have anything like it in your library.

Categories: Uncategorized

Redeemer University Bookstore Hopes to Serve All of Hamilton

With enrollment at an all time high, Ancaster’s Redeemer University (formerly Redeemer University College) has re-branded their campus bookstore and hopes to be able offer services to the broader Christian community of greater Hamilton.

The store is named 21Five, which is “a reference to Revelation 21:5: “He who is seated at the throne said, ‘I am making all things new.’””

In a story in Resound, the university’s quarterly magazine, store manager Kristel Forcier said,

As a university store, we’re the place to find textbooks but also items such as apparel, diploma frames and giftware. At the same time, we’re also a Christian bookstore where our customers can purchase Bibles, Bible studies, devotionals, books on Christian living and Christian storybooks for children. This will help us build relationships with local churches and schools by giving them a place to buy books and other products for their students and congregants.

That would be an ideal worth pursuing, especially after Hamilton’s only remaining Christian bookstore, a Gospel Lighthouse store, closed a few years ago, and the much larger Family Christian store in Burlington closed more recently.

However, having visited many times before the renovation, space is limited and school supplies, campus branded merchandise and course textbooks will always dominate.

Would remaining space intended to appeal to the broader Christian market resonate with all of them? The interim president, Dr. David Zietsma, is quite clear on this: “At a university anchored in the Reformed Christian tradition, 21Five will reflect the depth and riches of Reformed Christian theology and philosophy as well as scholarship from a Reformed Christian perspective across many disciplines…”

To this end, in a separate story, it was also announced the store would feature a shelving section dedicated to past and current faculty.

A look at the store website points to a selection with a bent toward scholarly and academic titles.

Over time, the store will need to evolve policies and procedures determining its willingness to serve the broader Christian populace, especially when special order requests are born out of a desire to support the school, or avoid purchasing from large corporations.

With over 1,000 students current registered, and factoring in friends and family, the store’s long-term success is assured at a time when other Christian retailers are struggling.


based on articles originally reported by

How christianbook.com Mismanages Canadian Credits

Canadian consumers who purchase from christianbook.com generally enjoy a high level of customer service and support. But their system breaks down when they need to reverse a Canadian credit card purchase. Let me explain with an example. (The purchase is hypothetical, but the exchange rates are correct for the dates given.)

On October 1st “John” purchases a Bible. It’s a clearance item, with real leather, regular $199.99 on sale for only $99.99. He’s thrilled about his purchase.

He’s charged $99.99 + 25% flat rate shipping + 5% tax at an exchange rate of 1.30966. for a total of $171.88.

So far so good, right?

Something goes horribly wrong. The Bible arrives but it looks like it was run over by a truck in the warehouse. Or something similar. He phones right away only to be told that the Bible is no longer carried by Christian Book or by their supplier. Not realizing what is about to happen, John agrees to have his VISA or MasterCard credited while he considers a different Bible.

Not such a great plan, John, as you’re about to see.

On October 12th, John’s payment card is credited, but this time he’s not buying US currency, but he’s selling US currency, so the credit is processed at 1.20982.

He does get 13% tax credited however. He was only charged 5%, but he doesn’t realize this extra “blessing” at the time, and it’s just as well, because things are about to go south.

He is given $99.99 + 13% at 1.20966 for a total of $136.68.

That’s $35.20 less.

Do you see what’s missing? The $25 US flat rate shipping charge…

…As a Canadian bookseller, christianbook.com is my competitor. I have no reason to help them succeed, but believing that we’re all brothers and sisters united in purpose, I do, at least once every three weeks, notify them of database errors and the like.

With this situation I’ve reached out to them repeatedly by phone and by email and they just don’t get it. If you’re going to sell to Canada, you should have dedicated people responsible for sales to Canada, and you should make that person accessible. They don’t.

Also, remember that in the example, “John” got back an extra 8%. (This is based on several true stories, and I have received documentation.) That shows that their system is not airtight when it comes to how they process orders for Canada.

What should have happened?

They should have been aware that “John” was going to take a hit in the process — the exchange rate difference alone is about $13 — and told him to select another product or offered him an online store credit.

This has been the system at Christian Book for a long time, and I’ve experienced it myself, going back as many as ten years.

They have no intention of fixing it.

Using Generic Backgrounds in Product Highlights

You can enrich newsletter and social media posts by creating backgrounds to which you can apply different book cover images as needed. In this one, the purpose was to highlight three new release hardcovers from Penguin Random House that we are selling at a cheaper “our price” to try to cut the pain of PRH not providing ITPEs for the Canadian market.

If you’re using it a lot, you can vary the background colors using your favourite image editor. Then you add the titles and save it as a separate file:

Feel free to help yourselves to these.

Two of these were books I would like to have reviewed here, on Thinking Out Loud, and with a short excerpt at Christianity 201. If anyone from Waterbrook or Multnomah is reading this, it’s time to up your game with social media influencers in Canada.

Graphics for Dealer Social Media & Newsletters

and finally, this work of art:

Note: The inclusion of the Linsey Davis spotlight gallery was to let customers know she is seen daily on Good Morning America. The 4th book doesn’t release until February.

Categories: Uncategorized

Are Split-Function Christian Book Retailers the Future?

When we moved out of Toronto to Cobourg, about an hour east of the big city 30+ years ago, there were few Christian bookstores on the Highway 401 corridor that didn’t double as something else.

Bowmanville doubled as a consumer electronics and satellite television store.
Trenton doubled as a bookkeeping office for an accounting firm.
Belleville‘s store owner doubled as property manager for the shopping centre, having to shut down the bookstore in the event of an emergency.
Napanee was “Country Waterbeds and Christian Books.”
Kingston’s owner was developing software for other stores to use and was an itinerant Alliance speaker.
Brockville doubled as a rental and property management office for the owners’ multiple apartment buildings.

Will this model return?

A large store in Scarborough got involved in clothing sales, and later divided their store in two, making the other half a banquet and special events space.
The current Belleville store is also a consignment store and also sells coffee and ice cream.
The Adventist store in Oshawa has a large section in the back devoted to food sales in keeping with its health emphasis.
Several stores in western Ontario, and one in Abbotsford, BC are invested in toys and games.
Finally, more of us are selling jigsaw puzzles than ever before.

Forgive the Ontario-centric nature of my list, but there are no doubt similar examples in the Maritimes or Western provinces. Feel free to mention ones I missed in the comments.

Other merchandise lines offer Christian retailers a two-stream income stream making the store less reliant on book and Bible sales, and less subject to the attacks of online sellers.

Often, as in today’s picture, the two areas of focus are not related. Do they need to be?

 

Categories: Uncategorized

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.

Categories: Uncategorized

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.