- Associated Press - Sunday, November 12, 2017

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) - A three-generation family bookstore that got its start in 1955 is going out of business.

The Amarillo Globe-News reports A&D; Bookstore plans to close for good Dec. 31, and the reason is no mystery.

“We just don’t have enough customers to keep it going,” said owner Elnora Dennis, 72, who has been part of the business since she and her husband Dale bought it from Dale’s father, E.L. Dennis, in 1979.

Some industry websites once called A&D; “the largest church and school teacher supply store from Dallas to Denver.” As is the case with many successful ventures, this one had humble beginnings.

“My father-in-law was still preaching in 1955,” Dennis recalled. “He was selling large-print Bibles and Sunday school curriculum out of his garage.”

E.L. Dennis then partnered with George Pierce, who owned Pierce’s Book Nook, and they opened their store on 10th Avenue. When Pierce bowed out a short time later, E.L. created the first A&D; Bookstore.

The business experienced healthy growth for the next several decades. In 2002, it opened a second location in space once occupied by Heilig-Meyers Furniture. Five years ago, it moved into the Paramount building that once was home to Proffit’s Lawn & Leisure.

Elnora Dennis remembers the evolution.

“It started as a Bible bookstore (with) commentaries, cards, books and children’s curriculum for Sunday school,” she said. “Then the teachers were coming in and said we ought to get some teaching stuff in.”

She said A&D; could buy from three vendors once upon a time. Today, she estimated, there may be a hundred.

“The more we bought, the bigger our store got,” she laughed. “We sold to teachers and churches and everybody in between.”

Dennis remembered the store’s mimeograph machines and the copies they would make, especially as she retraced the history of many of those handouts teachers gave to their students in the classroom.

“First we had the mimeograph, and then that went out,” she said. “Then we had the reproducible (books with inserts teachers could copy and print), and then that went out. Well, they don’t need them anymore. They just have it all on their smart boards and their computers.”

But a smattering of customers continued to like “old school” education methods.

“We still have people come in and buy it (the reproducibles), so you wonder,” she said.

Homeschool materials were once another popular area at the store. Dennis said more and more people choose to homeschool but go to their computers for their education needs.

The family tradition upon which A&D; was founded continues today, even as the store starts to wind down.

“I’ve got two sons who are employed and one grandson,” she said, “and we’ve had several grandchildren over the years as they went through college and this and that.”

The bookstore will honor all gift certificates through Dec. 31. The going-out-of-business sale features 10 percent off all educational products and 40 percent off everything else.

Elnora Dennis expressed her thanks to all of A&D;’s customers over the years. After that last day, she said, she will welcome retirement.

“I’m just waiting,” she anticipated. “I’m going to love it.”

She said her top priority will be “working with the church more.” Husband Dale ministers for San Jacinto Church of Christ.

Amarillo Chamber of Commerce VP of Business Development and Governmental Affairs Jason Harrison praised A&D; for its longevity.

“60 years, they found a way to succeed,” he said. “It says a lot about our local business community in that they fight through the struggles.”

In the end, though, he said it appeared A&D; succumbed to the problem many companies face in the 21st century: how a brick-and-mortar business that loses or doesn’t find its niche can compete with online shopping.

“We just saw that recently with Hastings,” Harrison pointed out. “If you don’t keep up with the times, then you run the risk of getting left behind.”

Dennis said bookstores everywhere are fighting the popularity of the internet to survive.

“It’s just too easy,” she said. “They’re going to have to change.”

But she said she has no idea exactly what changes they would have to make to stay afloat.

“If I did, I might keep going,” she said. “We’re just not as necessary as we once were.”


Information from: Amarillo Globe-News, http://www.amarillo.com

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