Supporting Your Local Christian Retailer This Christmas?

Do you have a local Christian retailer to support?

Most of the authors with whom I work know the status of their local Christian retail situation. From some of them I’ve learned that in some areas of the country, one can go hundreds of miles and not find a Christian bookstore.

In many other places, there is at least one Christian bookstore in an area, and sometimes even more than one.

If you now realize you have no idea where the nearest store is to you, google ‘Christian bookstores near me’ and see where that takes you, understanding you may get some results that are out of date.

But assuming you have a store you can get to, go visit, shop, and introduce yourself to your local store owner. If you are an author of a Christian book, gift them a copy of it. Begin to develop a relationship with the store’s owner.

In addition, take a look at it also with the eye of an author. Do they have other books in your genre?

Eventually, you may be able to do a signing or other type of author event in their store, which could help you and them. And, they may even stock your book.

Most stores love to support local authors, although they can also be a bit cautious, which is understandable.

Then get a little shopping done while you are there.

But amazingly to me, and a bit more often than I like to be honest, I meet authors who know nothing about their local Christian bookstores and aren’t too interested in them. They are not informed, so appear dismissive, and are totally focused on online sales.

I would argue we all need both.

Of course, online sales have transformed the way most of us shop, but local businesses of all kinds make a huge contribution to the life of their communities. Christian book and gift stores provide light and service to their customers. They also support the churches in their areas, as they serve and encourage fellow believers.

And they sell books.

My experiences in Christian bookstores almost always bless my life and cheer my day as well as help me discover books and gifts I wouldn’t have found otherwise. So, I now make an effort to shop in them and support them and the industry in which we are all involved.

Here’s my quick story. As some of you may remember, I relocated almost two years ago to Tennessee. Before I moved to my new hometown of Cookeville, I spotted a listing for what looked like a Christian bookstore and drove by it one evening long past closing time on one of our visits to the town in the months prior to our move.

Then of course by the time I moved here, I couldn’t find it again, something that happened more than once to me while learning a new community.

Eventually I found it, again after closing hours, so still hadn’t visited. But to write this post I decided I really needed to check out this store – and so I visited and took the above photograph.

I had the delightful experience of meeting the store owner Randall Smith, who with his wife Jennifer started their Christian Supply of Cookeville shop after the Lifeway store in Cookeville, where he had worked, closed. He kept hearing from people lamenting the loss of the Lifeway store, so he eventually took the leap in June 2021 to open his own store.

He was welcoming to me, and we chatted about the Christian retail world, discovering we had both attended the Christian Product Expo last August in Lexington, something I wrote about several times. It was his first experience with the Christian Retail Association, and he found the experience quite helpful to him as a retailer.

And I was blessed by meeting the Smiths, as well as getting acquainted with their store and its support for local artisans and churches. I look forward to going back.

So, if you haven’t been to your local store, take your Christmas shopping list and go shopping.

Originally sent as an email to the Buoyancy community on December 8, 2023.
Joni Sullivan Baker
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