Family Christian to close 240 stores, 9 in Illinois

Christian faith-based gift and book store chain Family Christian is closing all of its 240 stores nationwide, including nine in Illinois.Stores in Algonquin, Batavia, Lombard, Naperville, Vernon Hills, South Holland, Orland Park, Rockford and Joliet are holding...

Family Christian to close 240 stores, 9 in Illinois

Christian faith-based gift and book store chain Family Christian is closing all of its 240 stores nationwide, including nine in Illinois.

Stores in Algonquin, Batavia, Lombard, Naperville, Vernon Hills, South Holland, Orland Park, Rockford and Joliet are holding liquidation sales until the stores close, possibly in April. A store in Arlington Heights is already shuttered.

Store employees were made aware late last week that the retailer, which calls itself the "world's largest retailer of Christian-themed merchandise," will be shut down soon. Kim Kaiser, an employee at the Vernon Hills location, said he was given very few details about the plans for the store and the company, which has been in business for 85 years. He said all merchandise and fixtures are marked 10 to 30 percent off. He added that the company has shut down communication and that it's difficult for employees to find answers.

"It's tough. Sales trends have changed," Kaiser said.

Chuck Bengochea, president and CEO of Family Christian, made an announcement in a letter released on Friday.

"The retail landscape is changing ... and despite improvements in our product assortment and our store experience, we have not been able to generate the sales necessary to sustain our business," the letter states. "We have fought hard because we deeply believe in our mission to help people find, grow, share and celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ."

Bengochea said the decision to close was a result of declining sales after the company went through a court-supervised bankruptcy reorganization two years ago.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based company has announcements on its website about the shuttered stores and that merchandise is up to 30 percent off.

The company'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.

Zondervan's bookstores were started in the 1990s as Family Christian Stores after Harper Collins purchased the publishing house, which has since been merged with Nashville-based Thomas Nelson.

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