Christian Supply stores close across NW

Christian Supply suddenly closes most of its stores
Christian News Northwest, Subscriptions

PORTLAND — Two months ago, this newspaper carried a prominent ad proclaiming in large letters that five Christian Supply stores in the Portland-Vancouver area “are still here to serve you,” despite the midsummer closure of the chain’s flagship store on Division Street Southeast.

But in today’s down economy, things change quickly.

Last month, the chain, which at its peak several years ago operated more than 20 stores in Oregon, Washington and northern Idaho, suddenly closed all but five of its remaining stores — with the Beaverton location the only one left in Oregon. The other stores still open are in the Spokane, Wash., area and Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.

The chain’s parent company, Portland-based Pamplin Communications, offered no explanation on the closures. Gunnar Simonsen, who had been general manager for the chain in recent years, has left the company and could not be reached for comment.

Locally, Christian Supply began decades ago as a single privately owned Portland store that was eventually turned over to what is now Multnomah University. It grew into an eight-outlet bookstore chain when it was acquired in 1993 by Oregon industrialist Robert Pamplin. The following eight years saw great expansion in the company.

Pamplin also began other related ventures, including music, entertainment and broadcasting companies.. Serving as company president until his retirement in 2001was Gary Randall, a widely known Christian businessman and pastor who had an extensive TV ministry and who today heads up the political action group Faith and Freedom Network.

Dave Adams, who since 1973 has headed the Salem-based Rainbow West Christian bookstore chain, which today has seven stores in Oregon and southwest Washington, said the economic factors that hit Christian Supply have struck the entire Christian retail industry. He said he had heard that roughly a third of Christian bookstores have closed nationally in recent years.  Competition has come not only from the web, but also major retailers such as WalMart.

“People today are still buying Christian supplies and items, but much more of it is through the ‘big box boys’ and the Internet,” he said. But Adams sees a positive, in that most remaining Christian stores “will need to be in it for pure ministry.”

“And that’s not bad,” Adams said.

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