Starting A Parish Bookstore
By Ann Mane Gidus-Mecera
Setting up a bookstore in your own parish can be very easy and simple. It takes a minimal amount of time each week to successfully operate, and offers countless benefits.
Getting started is easy. You will need start-up money from the parish council and/or parish priest. $200.00 or $250.00 is a good amount, although I opened my bookstore with an initial order of about $100.00.
Decide what you want to stock in your bookstore: service books, educational books, icons, religious jewelry, records, children’s books, etc. Ask your priest for assistance, and also ask parish members what they would like to see in the bookstore.
Names and addresses of some publishing houses and presses for obtaining books and supplies are listed at the end of this article. You may also want to ask your priest for other names of Orthodox book publishers and suppliers. Many publishers offer wholesale discounts to bookstores, so when writing for copies of their catalogs, also ask for their discount and credit policies. If possible, set up an account with each supplier.
Decide what items you want to include in your initial order. A good mix might be service books, books on the Orthodox faith, a few icons and crosses, plus special interest books (marriage, baptism, contemporary issues, etc.)
up a checking account in the bookstore’s name for making payments. Some financial institutions offer free checking, and you may want to open such an account to avoid costly service charges that reduce the minimal profit your bookstore will make. Policies for free checking may vary so check with the financial institution in your own area.
Use a Purchase Order Form book (available at any office supply store) for placing all orders, and keep a copy of each order. These copies, along with your checking account, will act as a simple but effective accounting system for your bookstore.
When you receive air order (I have shipments sent to my home for convenience), check off the items against your own copy. Note any discrepancies or back orders. If items were purchased at a discount, price them at the suggested retail price. If items were purchased at retail, mark them up only enough to cover postage, handling and possibly a minimal profit. Note these prices on your copy of the order for future pricing. Remember that the goal of the bookstore is not to be a large money maker, but to be of service to fellow parishioners. If items are marked up too high, it will simply discourage sales.
SETTING UP SHOP
Probably the best place to set up your bookstore is in the social hall or wherever people gather for coffee hour. Be sure the spot you choose is easily accessible but out of the way of traffic. Find a table, bookcase, glass case, even a card table to display items. You may want to make placards to help identify and separate merchandise.
Be ready with about $20.00 in change each week: one $10, one $5, four $1 ‘s and one dollar in coins is a good mix. Also keep on hand paper and pencil for recording sales and jotting down any requests for special orders.
YOU’RE IN BUSINESS!
Operating a parish bookstore requires minimal effort while offering a maximum return in many respects. Parishioners at our church make a habit of stopping by the bookstore every week to see what’s new, place an order, make purchases or simply say “hello.” The bookstore helps educate our children, gives adults the opportunity to learn more about their faith, and acts as a “welcome sign” to visitors. Starting a bookstore in your own parish is an excellent way to serve fellow Orthodox Christians.
SUGGESTED BOOK PUBLISHERS AND SUPPLIERS
• Orthodox Christian Publications Center [OCPC]
PO Box 588
Wayne, NJ 07474-0588
The Orthodox Christian Publications Center (OCPC) is the central distribution and sales center for publications produced by the Church Administration and the church ministries of the Orthodox Church in America.
• Orthodox Christian Education Commission
PO Box 1051
Syracuse, NY 13201-1051
Toll free: 800-464-2744
The Orthodox Christian Education Commission [OCEC], under the auspices of SCOBA, publishes a complete selection of Church school materials and resources for children, teens, and adults.
• St. Tikhon’s Seminary Bookstore
St. Tikhon’s Rd.
PO Box 130
South Canaan, PA 18459
Toll free: 888-454-6678
• St. Vladimir’s Seminary Bookstore
575 Scarsdale Rd.
Crestwood, NY 10707
Toll free: 800-204-BOOK
American Bible Society
P.O. Box 3575
Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10164
Holoviak’s Publishing & Church Supply
2211 West Front St.
Berwick, PA 18603
Holy Transfiguration Monastery
278 Warren St.
Brookline, MA 02146
Light and Life Publishing Co
4836 Park Glen Rd.
Minneapolis, MN 55416
CHECKLIST: DEVELOPING A PARISH BOOKSTORE
1. Getting Started
A. Begin with about $200 or $250.
B. Open a checking account.
C. Obtain publisher’s catalogs, discount and credit information.
D. Obtain a Purchase Order Form Book for placing all orders.
2. Pricing Merchandise
A. Mark items at regular retail if purchased at a discount; use minimal mark-up if purchased at retail.
3. Setting Up Shop
A. Use a table, glass case, shelving, etc. for displaying merchandise.
B. Open the bookstore during Sunday coffee hour.
C. Keep $20.00 in change available.
D. Have paper and pencil for recording sales and order requests.
4. Order Regularly
A. Order new items when present stock begins to get low; don’t let it become too depleted.
B. Allow about two weeks or longer for merchandise to be shipped after ordering.