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An Open Book keeps Bethany's products local

Photo by Rachelle Klemme. An Open Book owner Gillette Kempf shows merchandise from Bethany Book and Gift which is stocked at the front of An Open Book.

The closing of Bethany Book and Gift in Wadena seemed to have ended the decades-long Christian bookstore presence in Wadena, but Bethany's products can now be found at the front of An Open Book.

An Open Book owner Gillette Kempf said she had received calls from people who were confused about which of the two Wadena bookstores was closing. An Open Book is still open, and is now carrying merchandise from the closed Bethany.

An Open Book owner Gilette Kempf approached Bethany owners Mike and Deb Woodard, who still run the main Bethany Book and Gift location in Baxter, and offered the space at the front of the store. The new section was put up Saturday, Jan. 21.

"We came to a cooperative agreement and understanding, so they are stocking and maintaining the new Christian book and gift section at An Open Book," she said.

The Dayspring greeting cards, new release Christian books, church supplies and other items are available at the front of the store.

"Anything that you are looking for that you usually found at Bethany that you don't see, we're in almost daily contact via email," Kempf said.

She said she wanted to see a Christian bookstore option to stay in Wadena.

"This is not a second Bethany or an outlet or anything like that," Deb Woodard said. "This is Open Book. ... We're providing resources for her."

The Woodards are on the advisory board for a large marketing group, and Deb called the Pioneer Journal back after she and her husband had flown in from the semi-annual meeting. She said the other independent bookstores were fascinated and intrigued by the arrangement between An Open Book and Bethany.

She said it was a good arrangement and they are excited to have a Christian bookstore presence still in Wadena.

Bethany Book and Gift had its roots in Inspirations, a downtown Christian bookstore that had existed since the 1980s. The lettering from its old location on the east side of Jefferson Street can still be seen etched onto the storefront. Inspirations moved to Jefferson Square, and later the Great Recession hit while the trend of buying books online continued.

In 2009, the owner of Inspirations was looking to sell the store. The Woodards purchased it, renaming it Bethany Book and Gift, and continued the store until recently.

Woodard said that they had good traffic the first year, but not enough business later on to keep the doors open.

"People aren't shopping in town, they're shopping online," she said. "But you know how important local businesses are to a local economy."

Woodard said it was disturbing to not only have to close their own store, but to see several other Wadena businesses closing in the last few weeks.

"We were emotionally invested in the town," she said, adding that she was excited for the opportunity to have the cooperative arrangement with An Open Book.

The Baxter location of Bethany Book and Gift had its roots over 70 years ago when it started in the living room of someone's home in Brainerd.

Woodard said she had started working at Bethany in the 1980s and knew Carolyn Hax, who started Inspirations in Wadena.

What the World is Reading

Kempf emailed the Pioneer Journal to announce that they are giving away free books through "What the World Is Reading" with publisher Penguin.

Penguin has selected the paperbacks in a free sampler to introduce new and exciting voices in fiction and nonfiction.

For a limited time (while supplies last) stop into An Open Book to pick up a free copy of "What The World Is Reading" and enter your name in a drawing to win a Penguin Classics Bag; or one of Four What the World is Reading titles: "You Know When the Men Are Gone" by Siobhan Fallon, "The Lake of Dreams" by Kim Edwards, "The Gendarme" by Mark T. Mustian or "The Death Instinct" by Jed Rubenfeld.

The drawing is planned to be held Saturday Feb. 25 at 1 p.m.

World Book Night

The bookstore is also participating in World Book Night on April 23.

"An Open Book has signed up to be a pick up and drop off location for the free book givers," she said. "We're just looking to get more people excited about reading, and raise awareness of all of the great books that are out there."