Michigan-based Family Christian Stores — the largest chain of Christian book and merchandise stores in the U.S. — has announced that it will be closing all 240 of its locations after a long 85 years in business.
The company’s February 23 announcement didn’t include a timeline for the closures, which will impact more than 3,000 employees from its 240 locations across 36 states. The announcement comes after a trying financial time for the company, which has stayed in business long after other national booksellers went out of business.
Family Christian Stores paid approximately $127 million in debt to its suppliers, creditors, and consignment vendors in 2015. The company limped on for two more years, but the financial struggle put the company through bankruptcy. Soon, the 3,000 employees still working for the Christian bookstore will be back on the job market. While that’s a drop in the bucket compared to some industries — there are about estimated value of $145.5 billion 7.8 million construction workers in the United States, for instance — it represents a major loss for thousands of families around the country.
When Family Christian Stores originally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it sold for an estimated $55 million. Company president Chuck Bengochea claimed that the company had “two very difficult years post bankruptcy” in a press release where he also blamed the closures on “changing consumer habits and declining sales.”
“We have prayerfully looked at all possible options, trusting God’s plan for our organization, and the difficult decision to liquidate is our only recourse,” he added.
Family Christian’s history began in 1931 when brothers Pat and Bernie Zondervan started a publishing house in their family’s old farmhouse. Over time, Zondervan Corp became the nation’s largest Christian publishing company. HarperCollins purchased the publishing house in the 1990s and the small bookstores evolved into the well known Family Christian Stores.
The company converted from a for-profit company to a non-profit organization in 2012 after a group founded by a wealthy Atlanta businessman bought the chain. Since then, all of the company’s profits have gone to Family Christian Ministries.
Steve Biondo, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development, said in a statement that the heart of the company was always in service to others.
“There is no question we have transformed lives now and for eternity,” he said.