Family Christian Stores Files for Bankruptcy

Nation's largest Christian bookstore will continue to sell books as nonprofit.

By Published on February 13, 2015

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Family Christian Stores, the nation’s largest Christian bookstore and gift chain, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in hopes of restructuring its debt in the face of declining sales.

The Grand Rapids-based chain said it does not expect to close any of its 266 stores in 36 states or layoff any of its 3,100 full-time and part-time employees.

“We strive to serve God in all that we do and trust his guidance in all our decisions, especially this very important one,” said President and CEO Chuck Bengochea in a news release.

“We have carefully and prayerfully considered every option. This action allows us to stay in business and continue to serve our customers, our associates, our vendors and charities around the world.”

Family Christian Stores‘ sales “have been in a steady decline since 2008,” according to the petition filed this week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The company’s annual sales have fallen from $305 million in 2008 to $230 million in 2014, according to its petition. The company predicted its 2015 sales would fall to $216 million.

The chain’s roots go back to 1931, when brothers Pat and Bernie Zondervan began a publishing house in their family’s Grandville farmhouse.

Zondervan Corp. grew to become the nation’s largest Christian publishing house. The bookstores were spun off in 1990s when Harper Collins purchased the publishing house.

According to its bankruptcy petition, Family Christian Stores owes $24 million in a revolving loan and $34 million in a term loan used to acquire the chain by a group of Atlanta-based investors in 2012.

The new owners pledged to donate the company’s profits to Family Christian Ministries, a not-for-profit agency that supports several Christian charities and mission groups.

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