What does it take starting a book store?

Discussion in 'The Literary Forum' started by StephenMartyr, Aug 18, 2019.

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  1. StephenMartyr

    StephenMartyr Puritan Board Freshman

    Not that I'm going to start one up anytime soon, but I was curious what it takes to start up a Christian book store. A real building that is.

    I'm not aware of any "big" Canadian name like "Christian Bookstore", "Reformation Heritage" or the like.

    What does take? I'm sure it's a hard road. It would be nice to start a small one up and cover the bases of the good reformation book publishers. Too many real book stores here have nothing but current authors like Max Lucado (not pointing the finger, just naming a name I see all the time on the shelf). Don't see Warfield anywhere...W....W...hmmm...

    Nice to walk in and see the good stuff!
  2. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    Steven, if the broad bookstores that appealed to the masses couldn't survive, it is certain a Reformed bookstore could not. There are just way too few of us around to buy the books. Our theology is too narrow. Unless you live in an area that supports a large Bible College or is supported by lots of Reformed churches, I can't imagine anything surviving.

    The closest thing we have is a large bookstore (that scaled back by about half a year or two ago) in the Pasadena (Los Angeles) area that is close enough to a few Bible colleges, seminaries and churches to survive. Or maybe they are funded by the publisher who owns them.

    I don't even see non-Christian bookstores surviving. All physical bookstores seem to be closing. And the used ones that survive are surviving on a store made up of 50%+ of those trashy romance novels. I would guess most people read fiction, fluff or the "best sellers", if they read at all.

    Might have better luck getting such books into libraries.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
  3. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Sorry, but I must agree. I ran Reformed Book Sales until about 15 years ago, but it was an online store. We did OK and even made money. It was a rewarding and profitable "hobby," but I could never have survived on it. As for a physical store, hoping to support yourself, I can't think of anywhere in the world—even the Universe—where it could survive. I pray this changes. I mean I really pray almost daily for genuine revival and reformation.

    I live near and visited one of the largest Christian book stores in the country named Hackman's Bible Bookstore. It had a handful of Reformed books but also sold RC liturgical junk and everything in the middle. And I mean everything. They closed last year after 70 years in business. Great people. Here's a story on their closing.

  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    If Lifeway, backed by the financial power of the SBC, couldn't stay open, what chance does anyone have? Or take Family Christian Stores. Sure, they were goofy more often than not, but there are far more charismatics than Baptists, and even they couldn't stay open.
  5. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I suspect it would take having some other business or Christian enterprise as the main attraction, with bookselling on the side. A large church or a Christian college could run a book shop on the side (and some do), particularly if the shop was not-for-profit. Or a retailer of other items could choose to devote part of his space to Reformed books, knowing it would not help his bottom line, but being able to support the effort because he's already open for other business and adding a bookshop doesn't cost much in additional overhead.

    One difficulty is that the publishers are barely even equipped to deal with small booksellers anymore. Gone are the days when it was commonplace for a local bookstore to simply put in its order with the publisher and get a shipment of books at a wholesale price. It still can happen, as the mechanisms and agreements remain in place for now, but it may not be as simple as it once was.
  6. StephenMartyr

    StephenMartyr Puritan Board Freshman

    Wow! Thanks for all your insights. It was a nice dream in my head! :)
  7. BLM

    BLM Puritan Board Freshman

    I like what BRIDGE Ministries started up in Laredo, TX. The link below takes you to a three minute overview of the bookstore and coffee shop they run.


    BRIDGE Ministries is a nonprofit ministry that exists to provide gospel-centered books, Bibles and resources to instruct children, disciple growing believers, guide parents and educate the body of Christ in Christian community.
  8. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Yesterday I was going to suggest a bookstore as maybe as part of a Reformed Christian coffee house/club/something else/something else/book store.
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  9. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    I was in the small town of Lavonia, GA recently where there was a combination pharmacy and Christian bookstore. I couldn't make it inside (wasn't open when I passed by) but I did look in. It seemed filled with popular Christian works and trinkets, similar to what you would see at a Lifeway.

  10. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    There is a Reformed bookstore operating out of Brantford, Ontario: www.reformedbookservices.com

    I have begun to purchase my books through them instead of other online retailers. They are reasonably priced.

    I suspect they will continue to thrive as the Reformed community in Southern Ontario is quite significant.
  11. StephenMartyr

    StephenMartyr Puritan Board Freshman

    That's a really cool idea! Better than my original one :D Thank you.

    Took a quick look and they seem pretty decent in their catalogue. I might give them a try and help out fellow Canadians! Thanks!
  12. chuckd

    chuckd Puritan Board Sophomore

    I lived in Singapore for a year and the church I attended sold Reformed books out in the lobby. They ordered in bulk from Reformed publishers to get discount prices. Let all of the Reformed churches in the area know about it.
  13. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    You're welcome at our shop anytime.
  14. PaulCLawton

    PaulCLawton Puritan Board Freshman

    Good idea, my understanding is that the store is run as a not-for-profit, with most of the employees serving as volunteers. A big part of their business model is travelling to Reformed conferences and homeschool conventions and hosting book tables - they have been very willing in the past to bring along a specific order if placed in advance also. They will also invoice churches for orders (we recently ordered replacement pew Bibles from them) which can be easier on the buyer than requiring an up-front payment. They have also been considerate in sourcing out "mules" in the past, if placing an order via email (especially a large one) you might get a response along the lines of, "Oh we know someone travelling that way soon, if you don't need it right away he can bring it with him".
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  15. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman

    Yeah, southern Ontario is a great place for a reformed population. In BC, it is in the Chilliwack area...basically look for a lot of dutch folks. If you find them, you'll find a reformed presence, typically.
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  16. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    To open a bricks-and-mortar bookstore these days:

    Step 1: Pretend that Amazon.com doesn't exist.
  17. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    Archives Bookshop, in Pasadena, CA, still survives and is going strong. They've been in business since 1980, having their 40th anniversary next year.
  18. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    You might be able to make a go of it if a mega church were to give you space and you had enough t-shirts and trinkets. Most of your sales would probably be on Sunday mornings....
  19. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    The Antisabbatarianism is an issue; but I expect most here would say "closed". :)
    This idea to succeed probably needs to either be a good entrepreneur who can sell coffee etc. and best Starbucks, rent space for meetings, sell books, research library, smoke room, bed and breakfast if somewhere folks would want to visit (Dallas), etc, or be underwritten by a church as some sort of outreach package. I recall a church, I think in Scotland, had such a set up. Free space and mostly tract/gospel type materials.
  20. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    There used to be an independent Christian bookstore in Snyder Plaza with a few shelves of reformed material. Per Google, looks like it still might be there.
  21. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    My church used to set out books for sale. It was run on the honor system, and was super easy. Just put your cash or check through the slot in a locked-down box, and take your book.

    What happened was this: we found it wasn't easy enough. Rather than go through the trouble of digging out the right cash or writing a check (do people even carry checkbooks anymore?), folks would look at a book, pull out their phone, and order it on Amazon. Done.

    Now we just have a display of recommended books featuring many more titles. People can look, and then they order what they want on their own. I do think a church in the right location could still operate a bookshop on the side, but I wouldn't expect it to bring in a profit.
  22. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior

    I like Ecc 10:19 for such questions.

    A feast is made for laughter,
    wine makes life merry,
    and money is the answer for everything.​
  23. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    Christians should be shamed for buying on Amazon books they can easily get from a Christian bookshop. Amazon should only be used for books not otherwise available. (Amazon Marketplace is slightly different: often books purchased on that are bought from small, independent bookshops.)
  24. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I normally would agree with that sentiment, but there aren't that many Christian book stores anymore. In my home area we had three. Lifeway and 2 charismatic stores. They're all out of business or about to be.
  25. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    I can see where circumstances might prevent buying from a bookshop.
  26. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    This is something to consider and one benefit that Marketplace gives small out fits (and very large used book sellers) a venture. I wonder if the same censuring that seems to be happening affects them as far as title offerings?
  27. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think it might.
  28. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I encourage Christians to buy from a Christian bookseller when that's feasible. By that, I assume an online Christian bookseller, because I figure the vast majority of people don't have easy access to an actual, good, Christian bookshop.

    But I don't think we should shame folks for buying from Amazon. That company offers customers a number of valid conveniences, and has made the entire bookselling industry more responsive to consumers as everybody else works to catch up. I am concerned that Amazon's new methods of soliciting and emphasizing "expert" book reviews seems to result in negative ratings on some of the best Christian books, but at this point those are scattered incidents, and good Christian books are still for sale. If the convenience of Amazon encourages someone to buy and read a good Christian book, I'm not going to complain about where they bought it.

    We also need to keep in mind the fact that many people who would never visit a Christian bookseller, or would not encounter Reformed books, stumble across good books on Amazon and end up buying them. Sometimes people read and respond to the gospel that way. Other times, good Reformed teaching makes inroads in places it otherwise would not. I've had people from all sorts of churches where my book normally would not be read contact me to say they found my book on Amazon and are now trying to lead their church in a more Christ-centered direction. So if you want to help spread the truth, log on to Amazon and write some positive reviews of your favorite Christian book.
  29. scottmaciver

    scottmaciver Puritan Board Sophomore

    We had two Christian bookshops in our town, Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, basically selling reformed books, along with a few other things. One of them closed around 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it seems that people just don't read reformed books as previous generations did. We still have the other shop and hopefully it will be there for many years to come!
  30. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    Not sure how well they are doing. They seem to be struggling with a weak website/online presence/inventory (inaccurate stock) and no customer service or follow-through on sales requests. They recently moved from their good location against Fuller Seminary and scaled back to about half the size -- now in an obscure warehouse with zero foot traffic. This is the one I mentioned that is owned by a publisher and supported by the local Bible Colleges, Seminaries etc. You have Fuller Theological Seminary right against them and also Biola/Talbot, Masters (MacArthur), Azusa, SBC etc. They also sell Arminian and Roman Catholic books. I do not see many people coming in (I'd guess maybe 10 a day) and I really do not see them buying much. Their selection is non-fiction, academic and 50% are used books.

    I think Jack is on the right track about the books being a side business to your main business. A non-profit, gift shop, coffee shop, selling used Reformed and fiction books (esp if received by donation) in the right location could work.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
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