A Decision about our Cathedral Shop by Dean Jones

I love books, and I love bookstores. But I also know that the way many of us acquire books and gifts no longer involves bookstores. So-called “brick and mortar” shops have closed in droves around the country, as many of us know so well. And church stores, like that of Episcopal Church of the Advent in Spartanburg or Grace Cathedral in San Francisco have also found themselves making the hard decision to close down or find alternative models.

For years the Vestry has been monitoring the financial status and the missional character of our own Trinity Bookstore (more recently named the Cathedral Shop). The store, first opened in the 1980s, was seen as an instrument of Christian formation. Later, during an era when bookstores could routinely operate profitably, the Vestry designated all profits to go to outreach projects. Not only has that latter benefit not been realized for some years, the store has operated at an accumulating deficit of almost $60,000, as an unbudgeted item, which means that the bookstore deficit expended scarce funds that could have been used for other ministries.

This shift happened because of a vast change in the national retail climate and the dominance of on-line, discounted purchases, particularly Amazon. Even with the great efforts (and excellent, buoyant and joyful work) of Elizabeth Wyman and her wonderful volunteers, in 2017 the store lost over $11,000.

That said, another aspect of the store has emerged. Located at the Welcome Center, the store provides a further level of hospitality for our main campus entrance. The volunteers at the store report that this element has truly made the Welcome Center welcoming.

So while we have made the difficult decision to close the store as we know it by the end March, we are committed to making great use of that space for hospitality. I’m working with a planning group that is helping me envision how hospitality can continue and flourish.

I am also committed to books and other resources as great formation tools. As you may remember, over the years I’ve written some myself! We are creating a resource page on our website that allows us to offer a simple means to recommend and make available great resources online. And we may also find other ways to offer a limited selection of gifts and books that do not require the investment that our current bookstore model requires.

I’m open to your thoughts. The Vestry came to this decision after much deliberation. We will look ahead creatively and in a visionary way to make sure that hospitality and formation resources remain within ready reach.