Part of the challenge of staying connected with the broader Christian community where you live is the challenge of being physically present in a variety of worship settings when most of your Sundays involve being present in your home church.
Many people who own Christian bookstores also have distinct roles in their home church: Teaching a class, singing on a worship team, serving with a tech crew, etc. But I don’t feel you can best connect with people from churches in your community unless you spend a Sunday with them. Fortunately, alternative service times make it possible to visit — especially with Saturday night options — and not miss your own church’s service.
In our community — which consists of two side-by-side towns — I identified 37 “worshiping bodies,” including some home fellowships and alternative groups. I’ve been at regular Sunday morning services (or equivalent) at 33 of these. With my core churches, I make a point to pay a return visit every time there is a change in lead pastors.
Don’t see this as public relations or promotional exercise, rather see it as education. You’re there to experience. Before you leave, pick up some of the denominational literature from that table in the lobby and when you get home delve deeper into the church’s culture.
As reported in the October, 2015 issue of Calgary’s City Light News*
by Doris Fleck
Scott’s Parable Christian Store will continue its legacy in Red Deer with new owners and a new name in time for Christmas shopping.
Previously Canada’s largest Christian retail outlet, an eleventh hour plan to open a scaled-down version of the store was engineered in late August.
Manager Jim Pearson explained the new owners of the 15,000-square-foot building in Gasoline Alley didn’t require the entire facility for their Tae Kwan Do studio. The front 6,000 square feet remained available.
So Pearson contacted the Kennedy family who bought the Parable store in Saskatoon and encouraged them to team up with Assistant Manager Vanessa Anderson.
Within 24 hours, the Kennedys agreed to form a partnership with Anderson. As soon as Scott’s closes on October 3, renovations will begin with the goal of launching the new Kennedy’s Parable Christian Store in early November.
“I am ecstatic. I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” Anderson explained. “I’ve been working here for 13 years, and I’ve been Jim’s assistant manager for the last two.’’
As the announcement was made during a special “service of gratitude” at Scott’s on August 29, Anderson said, “Literally in the last three days everything has come together.”
…Although the store will be able to keep the front entrance, cash register area and storage space immediately upstairs, new washrooms and a shipping/ receiving room will have to be added. Anderson will have her office above the checkout counter and is already ordering inventory.
…“All the staff that are still here, about 10 of them, will be coming on board with me… God is so good. Everything is going so smoothly.” Anderson said that as store manager she will continue many of the things Pearson implemented, including daily devotions with the staff. “My goal is to carry on with what has worked,” Anderson explained. “I give a lot of credit to Jim too because he has been coaching me for 13 years.”
Former store owners Gerry & Jan Scott gave Anderson their blessing and she said, “That meant a lot. Learning under Jim and working with the Scott’s, that’s priceless to me.”
…Located along the main traffic corridor between Calgary and Edmonton, the majority of customers have come from the provinces two largest cities. “It will continue to be Alberta’s Christian bookstore,” Pearson said. “People have been coming through these doors for 15 years and finding Christian product and it’s exciting that they will still be able to do so. God will honour it.”
* Scroll down to page 2 of City Light News for the full, unedited transcript of this story
Just when it seems that all we hear are stories of people either giving up on bookselling or feeling forced to throw in the towel, today we have a story of a store that’s actually expanding its bookselling presence in its home city.
Last month Jack Huisman and the team at Family Christian Bookstore — one of the largest Christian bookstores in Ontario — located in Burlington (a city of 176,000 in the Greater Toronto Area) opened the doors on a new project called Froogal Books and More just one building, six retail stores, and a few short steps south of its present location on one of the city’s busiest streets.
I need to pause here and say: That’s a great logo. I see franchise possibilities written all over this!
The website itself is powered by Book Manager and offers full online shopping possibilities which on the weekend boasted 4,022 titles of which 3,728 are described as “Bargain Books” and — this I found very interesting — 116 are listed as “Regular Stock,” which includes everything from Goodnight Moon to Stephen King to the To Kill a Mockingbird sequel. (Not all items in this category were book items.) Surprisingly, only 71 books were listed as “Religion” and these were mostly titles with great general market crossover potential. The new store is clearly meant to have a very distinct identity.
The website currently contains a photo archive which chronicles the journey from taking possession of the store at the end of June to completion and grand opening at the end of August. We haven’t yet seen the store in person, but hope to visit late October.
The store’s Facebook page maintains an unusually clean and uniform layout presenting the latest titles on offer.
Would your store consider something like this?
Those of us who deal with remainder product already have some expertise in this part of the larger book market. (Besides trade books and remainder books, other branches of our industry include the premium or specialty market, the textbook market, used books, antiquarian books, the self-publishing or vanity press market, and books like the Harlequin titles which are part of the periodical or magazine paradigm. Then there are trade market specialties like sci-fi stores, cookbook stores, children’s bookstores, etc.) Some of us already have a breadth of supplier relationships that would make this possible. We already know our local market well and the possibilities for partnerships and media with the best advertising reach.
On the other hand, for our family it would mean investing in products we’ve never committed dollars to before, which might include things that would raise the eyebrows of clientele in the other store. I’m sure that the team at Froogal bring their family values to the new store, but you would still want to keep the business units and customers separate.
The other challenge is running an off-price, general-market, liquidation type of store but staying closed on Sundays, as Froogal currently is. (Salvation Army and Bibles for Missions stores are closed Sundays, but they’re in the Thrift Store category selling used goods.)
On the other hand, diversifying within the same industry creates a number of synergies, not to mention in this case having a second store that’s less than a minute walk from the first. The “and More” in their name also leaves open the possibilities of adding any other liquidation commodity that makes a good fit, though trial and error may define what that fit looks like.
We’ll be watching this with great interest.
Family Christian Books in Burlington is in no way related to the Family Christian chain in the United States. Depending on who you are dealing with, the remainder book market may includes discontinued titles, publisher overstock and (sometimes) hurt (slightly damaged) books.
Some people consider themselves deep thinkers, but struggle with staying focused when they hold a book in their hands. They like to be challenged and engaged, but their ADD kicks in every time they —look over there, I think that cat is chasing a squirrel– so they have probably already seen the advantage in reading story collections and anthologies.
It’s ironic then that in presenting this assembly of transcripts from the Breakpoint radio program with Charles Colson to you I should be proposing the writing of a man who was such a voracious reader to people who struggle with that very same discipline.
Because of who Colson was, it should come as no surprise that many of the short articles in the book are related in some way to politics and political systems. That was his passion, and that is where he truly speaks with authority.
Other themes in My Final Word: Holding Tight to the Issues That Matter Most include Christian apologetics, biomedical ethics, public life, culture, crimal justice, contentment, homosexuality, and several other topics. Within each theme there are at least a dozen transcripts, some longer, and some that were edited, though at times the subject ends up being political- or economic-related. This of course creates a bit of a liability when you are an international reader because so much of this concerns the American political system and key figures in the U.S. government. Even so, in those articles there are principles to be extracted and some of the stories have ended up on the front pages of newspapers in Sydney, London or Toronto despite their origin.
Then there is the richness in terms of the quality and quantity of the writers Colson quotes. He was a huge fan of C. S. Lewis and G. K Chesterton, and to continue the list here would be to leave out others. If you want to know what makes people great, look at who they read and whose quotations they have memorized.
My Final Word clocks in at 240 pages total, released in August from Zondervan. In the foreword, longtime Colson associate Eric Metaxas suggests that there is sufficient material here to make the book suitable for small group discussions, and if all your group members are not always in touch with such issues, these radio transcripts will certainly raise awareness.
Full disclosure: Because of the nature of this anthology, I have not yet read every section, though I do prefer not to review a book before I’ve read every last word. I do intend to finish it however — it’s perfect nighttime reading for me — and I would encourage readers to keep a pen, pencil or highlighter handy to underline key sections and mark page numbers of passages to which you wish to return. I’m also reading the sections out-of-sequence, starting with ones which resonate more, and then, as I get more into the rhythm of the book, finding the others to be of equally interesting. In that sense, it’s a great reference resource on the topics listed above.
Chuck Colson was a very, very wise man.
Thanks to Mark at HarperCollins Christian Publishing in Canada for a copy of My Final Word as well as the other three titles that formed part of our all-review weekend here at Christian Book Shop Talk. Reviews featured here were published earlier at Thinking Out Loud.
I’m not a huge fan of plot contrivances in fiction, or some types of literary devices in non-fiction, so when it became apparent that Lisa Harper’s commentary on the Book of Acts was using the story of the adoption of her daughter as a motif, I was a little skeptical.
But in fact, author Lisa Harper really had won me over by the second chapter.
Believing Jesus: A Journey Through the Book of Acts is for certain a book about the fifth book in the New Testament, but it’s a different kind of approach, and if you can buy in to its premise, you will enjoy this immensely. So Peter, Phillip and Paul share the spotlight with Missy, a little HIV-positive girl from Haiti who has rocked the author’s world.
Granted, I’m not a frequent reader of women’s interest titles, but this is a story that offers surprises at every chapter. Not knowing much of the Women of Faith speakers, apparently this several-years-long adoption process resulted in Harper, who has reached the half-century mark in life, becoming a single mom. She’s very candid about the challenges that brings.
So how exactly does Ms. Harper bridge the 2,000 year gap between the early church and an orphanage in Haiti? The answer is: Very well. I don’t want to be the spoiler king, but this is a book like nothing else I’ve read before. What’s really happening here is that upfront you’re tracking the story of Lisa and Missy, meanwhile a solid theological lesson is sneaking in the back door. This is an author that knows her way around Bible reference materials, word-study books in particular. (Or conversely, you’re following along with the chapters in Acts and seeing touch-points of relate-ability you never considered.)
All of which to say that with Believing Jesus we have something that you could give to that woman in your church or small group that perhaps has never read a Christian book before. Maybe even one who hasn’t yet crossed the line of faith. With its Facebook and Instagram pictures of the journey from Haitian orphanage to America, it’s also a great gift to a woman who has become a new parent through adoption, a single parent, or someone who has had a child later in life.
The recent decision by Ingram to cut off stores (including mine) that didn’t meet a $5K minimum in 2014 that they didn’t know existed (in our case by less than 10% of the quota) is really a nail in the coffin for small stores. When you operate with a 6% ROI (Return on Investment) and a supplier offers you an extra 6% on a major purchase, that is contributing to increasing that ROI. But when a supplier takes away 10% that really plunges your profitability.
Here’s another way of looking at it: You buy a $10 book for $6. Your gross profit is $4. A supplier changes your discount by 10% and that book now costs $7. Your gross profit is now $3. In other words, you’ve been cheated out of 25% of your former profit margin.
So why does Ingram want to purge small stores from their roster when they already had a mechanism in place requiring minimum orders? It’s a question really requiring deeper investigation, and we’re working on it. Clearly, Ingram was the friend of the independent bookstore as well as gift stores which dabbled in books as a sideline. For our part, our purchases with them would have been much, much stronger in 2014 were it not for the service offered by Send the Light Distribution. We gave STL a “first pass” on our import titles and then used Ingram only for titles unique to them, and rush orders that STL did not have in stock at the time.
But it wasn’t enough. Neither was 30 years of goodwill and a perfect credit history.
There was no appealing their decision.
There’s a rule in pet ownership that you don’t scold a pet for something they did a day ago. You deal with it at the time. If any stores impacted by the new decision had been told ahead of time that, “In June of next year we’re going to change your terms if you don’t meet the $5K minimum, you need purchase only $421 more by the end of the year;” I know we would have put an order together in minutes. But to be punished in June for something we did the year prior… well, as stated, I wouldn’t do this to a dog.
The decision was arbitrary.
The decision was heartless.
We can no longer handle special-orders profitably, and so we are gearing up to tell customers to seek out another store in our community which is not a Christian bookstore, to purchase their esoteric Christian titles through them.
Something we’ve never had to do in 30 years.
InterVarsity Press posted this today on their Twitter account with the caption: “New and interested employees learning about IVP history and the publishing industry today in IVP 101.” How I would have loved to have been sitting at one of those tables.