“Our business is family owned but it is community run,” says Helen Thompson.
It is a special partnership under which Thompson Christian Bookstore in Columbus has operated for 25 years.
“By community run, I mean we try to see what the needs are in the community and we meet them,” Thompson said.
The business is located at 915 Farr Road, just in front of East Columbus Service Company, and is open Tuesday through Saturday.
The building, which has been home to the store for the last 18 years, is a former beauty salon.
The store is especially popular with children in the area.
Some come for a piece of candy for which they must ask politely, sign a piece of paper, and give a proper “thank you,” says Thompson.
Some show up looking for a chore because there is something for which they need cash. They will likely get one for which they will be paid more than what the task is worth.
Children come looking for a book that can be checked out library style. There are some used ones donated to the store that may be gotten for free by anyone.
Some children come for help with a school project or just to find a safe place if a parent is running late.
“We are genuinely dedicated to helping and that is why God has been good to us. The community has been very supportive,” Thompson said
She operates the shop with her husband, the Rev. Kenneth Thompson Sr., a retired Army First Sergeant who is pastor at Mount Olive Misionary Baptist Church in Seale, Ala.
“He is the backbone of the business,“ she said.
Married for 48 years, the couple, originally from Mississippi, has three grown children, one of whom, Kevin, assists at the store.
Thompson said Kevin helped lay floor tile in the business when it first began at a different location on the same road.
“It is not just children who come here regularly,” Kevin said, smiling. “Ladies gather to talk. It is like a barber shop.”
He said an “impromptu Bible study” can break out at any time.
Thompson said the start of the store was divine inspiration.
“The Lord gave my husband and I the idea,” she said.
Thompson has worked several different jobs. She said she is especially well suited for this one.
“I have always loved books,” she said.
The store sells more than just books though. Church supplies, like robes, certifications, communion sets and more, can be found at the store or specially ordered.
The space is small for inventory and Thompson said more than half of what is sold is by special order for people.
Thompson said it is tough to stay in business these days.
“So many people are going online,” she said. “It is a blessing to be doing as well as we are, especially, since we are an independent business and not a chain.”
She believes if you treat everyone properly, everyone the same, the community will give its support.
And it has.
The family has never considered moving the business to a different location because there is more work to be done in the community.
“The Lord has not told us to move,” she said. “We want to be a blessing to God’s people, to whoever needs us.”