by Bob Grawey
Bread of Life Christian bookstore is now closed after being a stalwart fixture on Jackson Avenue in Elk River the past 37 years.
Chuck Thompson, who started the bookstore venture along with several others, says it was always the intention that the bookstore be a ministry, rather than a business.
“I used to meet some guys for coffee and we got talking,” he recalls, “about needing something for the youth. We thought a Christian bookstore might be the thing to do, and that’s how Bread of Life got started.”
Thompson began visiting other Twin City Christian bookstores to get some ideas while others conducted research.
Osterhus Publishing Co. in Rob-binsdale decided to give Thompson and his group $3,000 worth of merchandise to sell on consignment as a way to help the new bookstore get off the ground.
“The purpose of the bookstore was to make money to support a ministry in the bookstore,” Thompson explains.
Right away, Thompson opened the non-profit store to various Christian venues he calls ministry.
“We wanted to have people working in the bookstore to be able to share and talk with people who had needs,” Thompson says.
Employees were always on hand and ready to encourage or even pray with anyone who walked through the door.
“We did a lot of things,” Thompson claims, “that you probably wouldn’t find at ordinary Christian bookstores.”
A back room, for instance, was used to host a men’s weekly prayer meeting. Averaging eight men each week since the bookstore opened in 1974, the men continue to meet even though the store has closed. One gentleman in the group is 94 years old.
Bread of Life was also used, Thompson says, to hold a youth Bible study. Like the men’s prayer meeting, it started when the bookstore opened. It finally stopped meeting two years ago after running 35 years.
Women who worked in the Christian bookstore had their own signature way of serving the community. On Saturdays they taught children a Sunday school-type of lesson with Bible verses so moms could have time shopping without kids tagging along. It was a free service.
The extra activities that made Bread of Life unique were always non-denominational and included social gatherings and meetings as well as a mixed men’s and women’s Bible study.
“I feel there were a lot of lives touched,” Thompson says of the bookstore’s 37 years.
Bread of Life was successful enough to warrant at least two expansions.
In recent years, though, Internet sales in Christian books and music have eaten into Bread of Life’s earnings margins.
Costs have exceeded profits for the bookstore and Thompson says it made no sense to keep it open when it kept losing money. That brought about the tough decision to close the store.
Now 80 years old, Thompson says he is at peace with the closure, but that he has no intentions of retiring.
“I haven’t found one word in the Bible that says anything about retirement,” Thompson insists. “As long as you’ve got a little energy and some breath, I think a guy should be doing what he can. I know there are a lot of things to be done. Maybe I can do one or two.”