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Kevin Bodaly and the Creation Christian Bookstore
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By Haydn Jensen

A wise business owner once said, "Consumers are statistics. Customers are people." If that's true, then Creation Bookstore owner Kevin Bodaly definitely prefers customers over consumers. Consumers buy things, but customers are people with a story. More importantly to Kevin and his staff, they are people worth getting to know. Positive relationships grow from conversations, and a bookstore becomes so much more than a place to buy things. Considering the spiritual aim of a Christian Bookstore, caring for the people who visit also makes good sense!

Kevin and his wife Cathy have been running the Creation Bookstore on Oxford St. E since 1996. You'll find it in the Belwood Plaza across from the Real Canadian Superstore, just east of the old Wolseley Barracks. With only two other London bookstores focussed mainly on serving Roman Catholic customers, Creation is the only local Christian bookstore specializing in serving the overall Christian community. Visit the store and you will find an excellent range of books, music, videos and gift items.

You might think the absence of other London Christian bookstores would make Kevin happy, since it gives Creation an exclusive market and so on. Not so. He says he would like to see five other bookstores in town. To Kevin, the presence of active bookstores like his says a lot about the health of the Christian community in London overall. Stores like Creation provide helpful resources while also serving as focal points for fellowship and community networking. Kevin says he and his staff often have opportunities to pray with their customers, and enjoy getting to know them. He gets great satisfaction when he can meet a new customer, help them get what they need and then later see a change in them when they come back next time.

Kevin finds that their store is also a useful community connecting point to help people find churches. Not having a particular denominational focus, Creation draws people from many church interests. If a customer mentions that they are looking for a church, Kevin takes the time to point them to some local churches that could be a good fit. Better yet, if a pastor happens to be in the store, Kevin will introduce the two.

With plenty of positive benefits, it's easy to want the "bricks and mortar" Christian bookstore to stick around. However, the market is not without its challenges. Over the past 20 years, Kevin says the number of stores across Canada has dropped from about 300 to 200. The 2008 bankruptcy of Canada's largest distributor of Christian resources (R.G. Mitchell Family Books) certainly changed the whole supply chain for Canadian booksellers. Losing valuable networking opportunities with the folding of the Christian Bookseller's Association didn't help either. Kevin says that all his suppliers are different from when he started in 1996. So, Kevin's needed to adapt to the many changes while holding onto the core value of offering personal care for his customers.

However, the biggest challenge Kevin and others in his business face is the tension between personal customer care and convenience—especially with online shopping. When shopping online, a person is actually just a consumer with almost no opportunity for personal communication or relationship building. When you consider how Christian resources are meant to teach us how to be healthy relational people, the impersonal nature of online shopping does seem to run counter to what Christian community is all about.

Interestingly, Kevin says the idea of buying cheaper online is largely an illusion. Often people think they are saving money if they buy online, but Keven explains that this is not usually true. He says, "We can sell just about anything in our store for a lower price than what a customer might pay online. Freight charges combined with exchange rates will often drive the final cost of an online purchase higher than the cost of buying from a local store." Yes, ordering online is generally more convenient than going to your local bookstore. But, you miss out on opportunity to connect with others. Kevin would argue that it's also a lost opportunity for community fellowship. In short, you are just a consumer. Kevin would rather treat you like a person.

Just like Christian writers and musicians are dedicated to helping others grow closer to God, Kevin sees his work as a Christian business owner as "a different calling" from others in the business world who tend to be focussed on making money, period. Yes, bills need to get paid and the business itself needs to be viable over the long term. But, profit is not always measured in dollars alone. Last fall, Kevin took over two Treasure House stores—one in Newmarket and one in Barrie. Both were struggling financially, but Kevin saw the need for a Christian bookstore presence in those communities as worth his extra effort to keep these businesses running. You can pray for Kevin and Cathy—taking on these stores is a lot of extra work, and they don't get a lot of time off. Kevin tells me they haven't had an actual holiday in about 3 years.

We also talked about London as a place to live, run a business, and drive around in. Kevin wasn't shy about his frustrations. Navigating the city, tax rates for business, and congested roadways came out as three significant areas wanting attention. Despite some negatives, though, Kevin does see London as a place with plenty of positive qualities. "In the end, there is only so much the city [government] can do," says Kevin. As a community, Kevin feels we need to decide where our priorities are and how we invest. This is true whether we are talking about city government, running a business, or living as Christians in a city like London. Some compromises can be a good thing, so it's important to decide what we can live with. Clearly, Kevin's business focus on encouraging strong community connections through the Creation Bookstore helps London overall because his store helps people learn and grow together. People getting to know people better and helping one another grow is always a good thing. This makes a business like Kevin's a good for everyone.

You can visit Kevin, Cathy and staff at the Creation Bookstore in person or online:
Visit the store:
Creation Bookstore
900 Oxford Street E
London ON N5Y 5A1
519.659.2610

Visit the store website: www.creationbookstore.ca
creationbookstore@bellnet.ca