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Couple takes over Inspirations, now Bethany Book & Gift, in Jefferson Square Mall

Photo by Sara Hacking Mike Woodard is co-owner of Bethany Book & Gift.

Mike and Deb Woodard have taken their experience running Bethany Book & Gift in Baxter to downtown Wadena. The couple recently purchased Inspirations and are excited about what the store has to offer.

An expanded selection of Bibles, books, CDs and DVDs are some of the changes since the store became Bethany Book & Gift. A computer allows customers to sample music. And a new computer system connects the Wadena store to the Baxter store. An item from Baxter can be shipped to Wadena in a day or two, the Woodards said, and vice versa.

"The two stores complement each other well," Deb said.

They hoped to have the Wadena store fully operational by this weekend, she said. More stock is on the way.

The store is opening under new ownership and a new name at a busy time of the year. The Christmas season usually begins Oct. 1, Deb said.

The Woodards took over the store Oct. 2 and they're quickly putting things together for the Christmas season, Mike said. They purchased the store because they were convinced Wadena needed to continue to have a Christian book store.

Bethany Book & Gift is more than a business for the Woodards -- it's a ministry.

"The unique thing about Christian book stores is it's actually a ministry in the area, but it's not tied to any one denomination," Mike said.

The store is good for serving local churches and those who attend church, he said. It's also a place for people who are searching for information or help with an issue who may not come into a church. They may find a book that can help them, he said, and that's the ministry side of it.

"I like that side and I like running a business and the challenge of that," he said.

The Woodards have owned the Baxter store for three and a half years, he said. Deb has worked at Bethany Book & Gift since 1988. Mike was a real estate appraiser. He likes to work with numbers, he said. His wife is really good at merchandising. They both like working with customers.

For those who enjoy online shopping, Bethany Book & Gift has a Web site at Customers can sign up for e-mail specials, Deb said.

Bethany Book & Gift also sends out sale catalogs, Mike said.

Mike will be the most visible Woodard at the Wadena store. Right now, he's there almost every day, he said. He anticipates being in town at least three or four days a week in the future. A familiar face will continue to be at the store as well. Phyllis Friedrich, who previously owned Inspirations with Paul Friedrich, is working part time, Mike said. They plan to have a couple more part-time people once the business is established more.

The Woodards are excited to be in Wadena, they said.

"We're looking forward to hopefully providing a good service to the area," Mike said. "It's been fun just meeting a lot of new people already."