SPRING HILL — Joan Poole said it will be bittersweet when the Christian bookstore she owns with her husband, Chuck, closes its doors next month.
"So many people have said that they feel God's peace and refreshment in our store," she said, "But I'm not sad for us — just sad that the store will no longer be there to minister to the community."
Poole said owning the Christian Living Resource Center has been "a very rich experience."
"I grew in my understanding of people, and my coping skills became stronger. It definitely stretched me and gave me a new appreciation for people in ministry," she said. "And I learned how important it is for Christians to work together and support each other."
Several factors led to the store's closing, including a diminished customer base due to a slow economy and competition from the Internet and other local bookstores.
"There was no one reason we decided to sell," Poole said. "It was an accumulation of a little bit here and a little bit there, which took away from our bottom line."
Poole said because the discounts they receive on products are not as large as bigger companies, it was important that they sell a high volume of merchandise.
"Our customer base is very good, but even though we've had really good support, it's so easy for people to get on the computer and order the things they need and have it delivered to their door," Poole said.
While the space their store is in is rented, the Pooles hope to sell the Christian Living Resource Center business.
"We were trying to sell it very inexpensively," she said. "As of now, no one has come forward. But we'd sell it in a heartbeat at a low price to continue the ministry."
The Pooles bought the former C&C Christian Supply bookstore in August 2003. After a period of working as administrators for independent- and assisted-living homes in Ormond Beach and Gainesville, the couple, then in their early 50s, had moved back to the area that year to help care for Chuck's ailing father.
Joan Poole had to decide what to do next.
"I had gotten my real estate license and was deciding if I wanted to sell real estate. I was at a crossroads," she said. "I love books, so when I found out the bookstore was for sale, I decided I would rather (be in a line of) work where I could minister as well as have an occupation. We wanted not only to have a business, but an outreach to people locally who wanted good Christian products, as well as encouragement, information and prayer."
Along with selling books, Bibles, music, gifts, cards, artwork and T-shirts, the Pooles offered a notary service. They would ask patrons to share their prayer needs.
"There are so many people hurting and have such major disappointments not quite knowing where to turn," Poole said, "so we tried to encourage them and kept their prayer needs in a journal. We would meet for an hour weekly to pray for the people's needs and also our strength and wisdom and guidance from God to allow us to continue the work that we were doing there."
In the beginning, Chuck Poole worked in the store with his wife. Later, to add to the family income, he bought a landscaping business. But he still frequented the store and found a ministry there.
"Every time I went in, there was somebody there that had a need, so I got to do a lot of counseling," he said. "For me it was life-changing. I found my home church through contacts I made there. I found my direction in life for the ministry. I also got hooked up with the Hernando County Jail to minister there. I got ordained because of people I met through the store who inspired me. All this good stuff happened."
Chuck Poole, who is a discipleship pastor at Journey Christian Center, plans to continue his landscaping business while working toward degrees to become a licensed, clinical pastoral counselor.
Joan Poole said she is at another crossroads.
"I'm still praying about what I will do now," she said, "and I'm looking for that open door. It's wonderful having an occupation that is also a ministry, and it would be difficult if I couldn't have that, whatever my occupation ends up being."
Poole said she hopes all their customers will come by the store before it closes.
"We would love to say goodbye to people," she said. "God has done some amazing things at the store, and for that we are grateful, and we want to thank everyone for their support and tell them we will miss serving them."