The Ground Floor: Entrepreneur opens Christian bookstore soon after Family Christian Stores closes

'It's been in my heart to do this'

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Kirk Ford believes a higher power had a hand in his new business venture.

Ford opened the Christian Store in Cedar Rapids on Aug. 2, filling what he said was a void in the local Christian retail market after his former employer, Family Christian Stores, closed its doors in April.

“God didn’t have to get my attention too much before I realized that this was meant to be,” Ford said. “I feel like he’s guided us every step of the way.”

Ford has been around Christian bookstores for much of his life, starting with a store owned by family members in his hometown of Decatur, Ill.

After graduating from Olivet Nazarene University and spending one year teaching high school and three years in the mortgage lending field, Ford went to work for Family Christian Stores. For the next 24 years, he worked in various roles around the Midwest, including as a store manager, music buyer and district manager. He eventually became the store manager in Cedar Rapids.

Ford left Family Christian Stores in October 2013 to pursue a franchise opportunity with ValuMaxx Mattress in the Quad Cities. He and a business partner currently own the Davenport and Muscatine franchises.

But, he said, “It’s been in my heart to do this for the past 20 years or even since I was a kid visiting our local store in Decatur.”

Ford said that sales at Family Christian Stores’s Cedar Rapids location were good, but other circumstances caused the chain to close all its 240 stores, which is why he moved quickly to open his new store.

“There is internet competition, but still a huge percentage of the population likes to get out and go to a store to shop and to hold a Bible in their hands,” he said. “I don’t see that changing.”

In addition to filling a niche in the market, the new store provided employment opportunities to those who lost their jobs when the old store closed. Ford said his staff of nine is comprised entirely of former employees of Family Christian Stores.

As with its predecessor, the Christian Store carries Christian books, gift items, music, church supplies and other items. One difference is the new store also buys and sells used books, CDs and DVDs.

The store has a sitting area — with free coffee and wifi — that customers can use for book clubs and Bible study groups.

“Christian retailing is obviously a business, but it’s also a ministry in a way,” Ford said. “My goal is to help people become better disciples of Christ.”

l Know a startup business in operation less than a year that we should consider for “The Ground Floor”? Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

At a Glance

l Owner: Kirk Ford

l Business: The Christian Store

l Address: 4112 Center Point Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids

l Telephone: (319) 200-2565

l Website: www.thechristianstorecr.com

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