Bill English and his wife Annette quit their professions to become owners of the Good News Christian Bookstore in Northwood because he was told by God, This is what I want you to do.
It s one thing to talk about godly obedience; it s quite another to live it.
Just ask Bill English.
I m 50 years old. I ve been a Christian since I was a child, he said. It took me this long for God to say, Bill, stop trying to do things your way. This is what I want you to do.
Mr. English said God wanted him and his wife, Annette, to open a Christian bookstore on the east side of the Maumee River.
For years, the Oregon couple had talked about the need for a place where people from their section of Toledo could buy Bibles, inspirational books, music discs, and other items without having to drive all the way across town.
But it took a while before they came to the conclusion that they were the ones who should open it.
Mr. English, an engineer, and Mrs. English, a nurse, had no prior business experience before opening the GoodNews Christian Bookstore in Northwood in July.
It s easy to say, Oh yeah, do what God tells you to do and he ll bless you. But we re surrounded by a culture that says, Do it your way, Mr. English said. The Bible is full of stories about people who were doing things their way and God said, No, you ve got it all backward. God has a plan.
It took some difficulties at Mr. English s engineering job to get him started writing a business plan for the book store. Once he got started, however, it was like a switch went off, he said, and it seemed clear that the concept would work.
With help and advice from local business owners and a national consulting firm, Mr. English developed the business plan early in 2005. In April, the couple rented a 4,000-square-foot facility in the Great Eastern Shopping Center on Woodville Road that had been vacant for about seven years and before that was a wallpaper store.
It took more than three months of nearly round-the-clock labor to renovate the facility from floor to ceiling, with the Englishes getting help from their children, Sarah, 15, and Andrew, 10, as well as friends and members of their church, Faith United Methodist in East Toledo.
There s no question God called us to do this, Mr. English said in an interview this week.
GoodNews Christian Bookstore officially opened for business on July 23. But after all the hard work getting ready for the grand opening, it really was only the beginning of the next phase. I took off my carpenter s hat and put on my business owner s hat, Mr. English said.
The store s shelves hand-built by the Englishes are stocked with Bibles, inspirational books, greeting cards, jewelry, videos, and clothing.
The music section offers everything from Christian rock and hip-hop to Southern gospel and praise music, plus sheet music for musicians.
There is a computerized listening station for customers to preview CDs or search for songs. In the children s area, videos featuring such favorites as VeggieTales and Angel Wars characters are shown on a flat-screen television.
One area of the store is stocked with rosaries and items specifically for Catholic customers, while other areas have Spanish-language books, homeschool textbooks and resources, and Vacation Bible School materials.
An art section features works by local artists and Mrs. English said she wants to offer more locally made art.
The Englishes do not want GoodNews to be a place that is just for quick sales; they want their customers to feel comfortable enough to relax after shopping, meet friends, and discuss everything from philosophy and theology to current events.
The front area of the store features a cozy couch, several recliners, and a couple of table-and-chair sets. Free coffee and tea are there for customers.
It s starting to become like a family, Mrs. English said.
Some customers come in regularly and stick around after shopping. A men s prayer group meets at the store twice a month. Mrs. English wants to bring in musicians for live concerts occasionally.
At 6 p.m. on Friday, GoodNews will preview the newest VeggieTales children s video, Sheerluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler, which is scheduled for release March 11. The musical animated video starring Larry the Cucumber as Sheerluck Holmes and Bob the Tomato as Dr. Watson will be shown at noon and 2 p.m. Feb. 25 and March 4.
An open house is set from 2 to 3 p.m. today to preview this year s Vacation Bible School themes and materials.
The Englishes said their business got off to a good start after the grand opening, but sales slipped in September and October. It could have been a time of uncertainty, they said, but their faith gave them an assurance that everything would work out.
I didn t want to be like Peter. I don t want to step out of the boat, then hear the wind and start sinking into the sea, Mr. English said.
Sales picked up for the Christmas season and the new year has been good so far, they said.
The new business owners realize that seven months after opening, they are still in uncharted territory. They continue to adjust their product lines and their marketing strategies according to their experiences, sales figures, and customer input.
It s been a real learning experience for everybody, Mr. English said.
We re walking by faith, Mrs. English added. And every day is a gift.
GoodNews Christian Bookstore is located at 2600 Woodville Rd. Information is available online at www.goodnewsbooks.biz or by calling 419-691-3425.
Contact David Yonke at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154