- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) - A series of events led Christian Book House to its long-time location in Dodge City, but attention to specialty services is what keeps the doors open despite economic changes for owner Russell Gall and employee Dianna Blundell.

Fern Gall, Russell’s mother, started the store in 1958 in a room in their Dodge City house, according to the Dodge City Daily Globe (https://bit.ly/2f8AdGR ).

“It was a way for our family to witness our faith,” Gall said.

The First Christian Church members were forced to move their business downtown to a small location when the flood of 1965 destroyed their house and ruined their merchandise. Eventually, Gall helped move the store to its present location and took over management in 1983.

“Things have changed in the neighborhood through the years,” Gall said. “There used to be a shoe store on the left and a family Coast-to-Coast hardware store on the right.”

Despite the changes, there remains a positive, friendly environment in the small Christian store and a commitment of management to provide needed services.

“I love this little shop, I couldn’t image working anywhere else,” Blundell said. “I really enjoy researching for customers’ special requests. That makes every day interesting.”

Blundell, who has worked at the shop for 17 years, said she worked as a bookkeeper for her husband many years, but after he died began working at the Christian Book House. She gradually filled the role of customer research specialist.

“Time flies when I am here,” she said. “I guess you could say this is the first job I’ve ever had that is fun all the time. I have about laughed some people out of the store when they ask me to find certain things for them, but I really enjoy seeing if I can come up with what they are looking for.”

Most of the merchandise in the small store sandwiched between the Paradise Hookah shop and Club Hennessy on is religious in nature. Bibles, Christian music and devotional books, greeting cards, decorative crosses and jewelry, posters, music boxes and many other types of inspirational items provide customers with plenty to peruse. Items Blundell finds at special request range from music for songs heard on the radio to sports’ team hats or out-of-print books. She even found CD’s for music from a customer’s favorite old records.

“A lot of people just don’t have time these days to find a product they have heard about, maybe on the radio or at church,” Blundell said. “I have a special site I use online to find these items, sometimes using just the barest of clues. I am always so happy to report back to the customer when I can find something for them cheaper or in better condition than they thought initially.”

Blundell’s research site was recommended to her by a distributor, and it keeps customers coming in for those otherwise hard-to-find items. Diversification has also helped keep the doors open through the years, according to owner Gall.

“People just don’t read like they used to,” Gall said. “Our trade associations tell us we have to focus more on gifts and decorative items, because books and greeting cards just can’t carry us like they used to.”

Gall said their store is working to set up a buff machine that will allow them to fix customer’s scratched video game or music disks. They purchased the machine from Hasting’s book store when it went out of business recently and hope to get it up and running soon. Sharing that service with others will help bring in more customers, along with the regular attractions.

Gall said the popular devotional books by Sarah Young, called Jesus Calling, and the new release, Jesus Always, had been consistent customer draws in the past year.

“There was just something very special about those books that really got people’s attention,” Gall said. “They were written from a different approach, like God speaking to each individual. We carry a large-print edition that has been very popular.”

While Bible sales continue to be the main-stay of the store, it is the special touches provided by personal service that allows Christian Book House to remain competitive with Wal-Mart or online outlets. Blundell and Gall can put special name imprints on Bibles and other books, as well as provide personalized children’s music CD’s.

“We generally know our products very well and assist in finding whatever the customer needs,” Blundell said. “Even our Spanish speaking customers are valuable to us. We can generally find whatever it is someone needs.”

Providing a place with a cheery atmosphere for customers to look for faith-based resources is a goal of Gall, and filling a niche for personal service keeps Blundell a happy employee.


Information from: The Dodge City (Kan.) Globe, https://www.dodgeglobe.com

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