Thinking Out Loud

November 8, 2015

Behind the Scenes

Filed under: blogging, personal — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:16 pm

Some of you know that much of my time weekly is taken up with the operations of a Christian bookstore, and when I say operations, I mean everything from buying, merchandise, marketing, bill-paying and cleaning the restroom. We’ve had up to three stores, currently have one, and that store has been going for 20 years now, though the business itself had a previous 20-year history on the day that store opened, some of those early years having all the financial scope of a child’s newspaper route.

On paper, the store made a very modest profit each year, and that constituted our family income. Fortunately our help and sustenance has come through other means, but that fund will be reduced to zero by the end of the year, and the operating debt of the business will hit a record high around 4:00 PM tomorrow; money that at this point, even with Christmas coming, we will not be able to fully pay back. And even the modest paper profit disappeared the last two years.

In other words, periods of denial notwithstanding, our little bookstore is not immune from the factors that have hit so many other stores, and is no longer sustainable.

The problem is, if I share this with my customer base, the assumption is that the store is immediately closing, which through the miracle of “broken telephone” communications, becomes already closed, which then becomes closed last month.

I want to put the information out there, so our total demise is not without warning, but don’t want people abandoning us in droves. My blog readership and my customer base have a very, very small overlap, so basically, I’m practicing here how to share the news there.

Plus, I think I need to see this in writing to remind myself that it’s true. Every fiber within me wants it to not be, but the measure of miracle required at this stage would be rather dramatic and unlikely.

That’s all for now on that subject…

…My oldest son asked me this week if all the blogging is tiring me out. I thought about it and last night realized that there is a cost/benefits balance here, and that if the blog network I created ever shut down, one thing I would miss greatly is the review books.

Yeah; I know. The book thing again. I like books. And CDs. And of course, Bibles. We don’t do a lot of reviews here, but publishers know that when I like something, I can get really passionate about it.

The business and the blog share one thing in common, however: Decline. Blog stats for one month this year were about half of what they had been for the year prior. Ouch! I know of very few people who are gaining blog readership, such is the reality of a fragmented social media market.

And of course engagement (i.e. comments) are severely down, which affects online community.

Much wisdom needed on both fronts, I guess.



  1. Made me really sad to read this, Paul. You are so good at what you do, both in the book store and with your blogging. I so appreciate your friendship and encouragement. I understand. I’m just sad about it.

    Comment by dianelindstrom — November 8, 2015 @ 9:02 pm

    • Facing the realities here has been an exercise in dealing with denial. I still don’t have a time frame. I would prefer to transition out of this slowly.

      On a personal note, I guess I missed out on that swim again this year. Probably a little too cold now.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — November 11, 2015 @ 8:49 pm

  2. Your page has been such an encouragement to me. I have been able to reference many of the articles shared in many of my roles.I am sorry for not commenting before but I deeply appreciate all of your efforts. Regarding the bookstore, we have had one here close about a year ago, it was the toughest decision they had made to close. You cannot replace the brick and mortar storefront with anything, which is why the reviews are so important; the personal review is the last bastion of quality customer service and the genuine help that the bookstore proprietor provided. May God grant you grace and wisdom as you proceed.

    Comment by Pastor_Mike — November 9, 2015 @ 12:15 am

    • Thanks for your encouragement re. the blog.

      I understand the “tough decision” that the people in your area faced. I’ll do everything I can to drag this out in order to keep the thing open another day; but sometimes you have to enter “shutdown mode” at least mentally, even if you don’t tell all your customers where things are heading. (Though we did, in fact, mention it this week in a piece buried at the bottom of our newsletter!)

      My biggest challenge is not to automatically reorder things as we run out. We’ve been really efficient at reorders, and it bothers me now to think having “holes” in our inventory.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — November 11, 2015 @ 8:52 pm

  3. Much saddened to hear this news. This blog brings us so much to consider and benefit from. Your reviews are very much appreciated. Will pray for wisdom for you but also for divine intervention regards the book store. Raised in rural Kentucky I was in awe entering my first book store. To this day the sights and aroma bring warm feelings. You are in my prayers.

    Comment by Paul — November 11, 2015 @ 8:26 am

    • Thanks for your prayers.

      My first visit — that I remember — to a Christian bookstore occurred when I was in my mid-teens. At the time, it seemed like a foreign environment, though my church friend who took me there said he frequented the place all the time. He pulled out a wad of cash and bought a bunch of record (i.e. vinyl) albums which we then listened to back at his place.

      I later learned this was the same bookstore chain my mother had worked at before I was born. And it turns out that on the other side of the family, my grandfather had an international tract distribution ministry (remember tracts?) that I had been only remotely aware of.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — November 11, 2015 @ 8:48 pm

  4. What do you plan to do after the store closes, or are there any plans at this point?

    Comment by Clark Bunch — November 11, 2015 @ 7:33 pm

    • I was going to ask you if there’s an Associate Pastor opening at Unity Baptist. When the time comes to close the retail store, I am hoping to still keep the business in some other form.

      The other aspect to this is that the inventory we have is absolutely crazy huge (though it’s all paid for) so finding homes for all the books (which isn’t much different from the present challenge) will be a major task.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — November 11, 2015 @ 8:44 pm

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