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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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