National retailer’s closure plans to affect four Indianapolis-area stores

A decision by a national religious-based retailer to close all 240 of its stores will put four Indianapolis-area locations out of business.

Family Christian Stores, which bills itself as “the world’s largest retailer of Christian-themed merchandise, announced late last month that it would shut down its retail operations in 36 states.

The 86-year-old business, which sells books, gifts and church supplies operates to two Indianapolis locations, in Cherry Tree Plaza at 9985 E. Washington St., and at 8925 Madison Avenue.

It also has stores in Anderson and Plainfield, as well as 10 other stores across the state. It has closed several other locations in the state in recent years.

No timetable has been announced for the closures. Local stores are still open but much of their merchandise has already been liquidated.  

Family Christian, which has more than 3,000 employees, went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015 and failed to recover, company President Chuck Bengochea said when announcing the closure.

We had two very difficult years post-bankruptcy," he said in a written statement. "Despite improvements in product assortment and the store experience, sales continued to decline. In addition, we were not able to get the pricing and terms we needed from our vendors to successfully compete in the market.”

Family’s Christian’s roots go back to 1931 when Pat and Bernie Zondervan founded a publishing and bookstore business in Grandville, Michigan.

Zondervan Corp. eventually grew into the nation's largest Christian publishing house. It changed its name from Zondervan to Family Bookstores in the 1970s. The chain became Family Christian Stores in the 1990s.

The company has gone through several ownership changes in recent years. It converted to a not-for-profit model in 2012 after being sold by a private-equity firm.

At the time of its 2015 bankruptcy, the company said annual sales had fallen 29 percent over the past seven years, to about $216 million.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.