Christian store is 'peaceful place'



The Family Christian Stores outlet in Federal Way tries to be as diverse as its clientele.

“This is a pretty diverse town, so we want to have products that meet different cultures and needs,” said manager Sharon Hendrickson.

There are Spanish, black gospel and Southern gospel sections in the store at Gateway Center. There are also a few Catholic items, but otherwise “we stay toward mainstream Christianity,” such as Lutheran, Baptist and Episcopalian, Hendrickson said.

With 330 stores in 39 states, Family Christian Stores (formerly Family Bookstores) lays claim to being the nation's largest Christian retailer. The company mission, as explained from the Grand Rapids, Mich. headquarters, is to offer “the broadest selection” of Christian products “in a family environment.”

Products include Christian-themed books, music, gifts and cards, clothing, children's merchandise and church supplies.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks last year, Bibles and patriotic merchandise have been big sellers at the Federal Way store. “Bible sales went up right after 9-11,” Hendrickson said.

Another popular item tied to a news event is a t-shirt in support of the Pledge of Allegiance following a court ruling earlier this year against the Pledge being recited in public schools.

Solace and reflection are intangible products in the store, Hendrickson said.

“We try to make it a peaceful place in this hectic world,” she explained.

The store, which opened in June 1997, occupies 6,300 square feet and has 12 employees. Hendrickson has been the manager for two years.

Nationally, the retail chain had a change of leadership in July. Les Dietzman retired as chief executive officer and was replaced by Dave Browne, former CEO of LensCrafters Inc.

Dietzman, 59, was a Wal-Mart executive before joining Family Christian Stores in 1992 and overseeing its growth from 125 stores to the current 330. He also led a management buyout of the company in 1994 from its previous owner, Christian publisher Zondervan.

"I have been blessed to work with a tremendous team of people who share a

common vision and mission to impact lives for Christ through our work,” said Dietzman, who remains a member of the company’s board of directors.

Editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at 925-5565 and

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