The Bookstore That Sells A Lot More Than Books
Looking for antiques, or religious related gifts? This is the place for you! The first thought I had when walking into Bible Depot was “oh my gosh, I’m going to break something!” Luckily, my clumsiness didn’t get the best of me.
It’s 1931 and it’s the year of the grand opening of Bible Depot on Market Street in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. The store began by going from door to door handing out bibles to each resident because the owner wanted everyone to have a bible of their own. Bible Depot is a generation to generation bookstore, owned by her father-in-law, James C. Ney, Nancy A. Ney is now the owner of Bible Depot.
In the 1940s, James C. Ney relocated the bookstore to North Front Street, still sitting in Sunbury as the prime location. The bookstore was moved because James felt it would be easier to find and would get more customers because it’s on the highway beside the river, which is a significant landmark in Sunbury. It was also moved because James got bored with the setting and wanted a new perspective. Bible Depot now lays in more of a compact neighborhood alongside many homes and residents, getting the more homely feeling. Back then Sunbury was very prosperous and it had stores all over the place with almost every type of store a person could think of. The main reason for this is because it’s a railroad town where all the supplies and resources came through.
In the 1970s, Bible Depot faced an issue of controversy over a Chick Tract that Pastors in the area found offending. They came into the store and threatened that they’d have all the churches boycott the store if they didn’t get rid of selling the particular Chick Tracts that were being sold in the store. Nancy said she would read it and pray. After reading it she agreed that it was controversial and they no longer sold or carried it the store. As a result, the churches didn’t end up boycotting Bible Depot, saving many people stress and issues that could have resulted in the store closing.
In 2013, Bible Depot repainted the store from a light, soothing yellow color, to a bright, dominant blue color. Nancy knew she wanted to paint it a different color but didn’t know exactly what color to paint it. After looking for a color, she found one and had promised her daughter to try a drop of it to see how she liked it. After finding out that it was atrocious, Nancy knew there was a can of paint downstairs that she could use to cover that color up. As a result, she liked it and actually thought it was pretty. This color is the color that Sunbury came to know that covers Bible Depot. Two years after painting the store, in 2015, big, white letters spelling out Bible Depot were added on the front of the store instead of the plain, painted-on black letters that was originally there.
The customer demographic is very broad, covering all religions that believe in one god. A Jewish section was added as a result of Nancy finding out that her father (whom she never knew) is in fact Jewish while her mother was on her death bed.
According to Nancy, a couple weeks ago they had 45 customers come in. Thinking about the amount of space that many people would take up blows my mind because the store is not big at all with enough space to fit all 45 people in order to move around comfortably. In my opinion, this many people could’ve traveled in the store at once because of the location of the store, which is on a highway where people travel in, through, and out of Sunbury.
Before being able to go into Bible Depot, I didn’t know what to expect. For me personally, I had no idea what it would be like, considering I’ve never been to a bookstore that wasn’t corporate owned. I found out Bible Depot resembles more of a gift shop then a bookstore. With that being said, there are a good amount of books in the store but not types of books that I would see in my bookstore back at home. There are many different types of bibles, children Sunday school books, religious coloring books for children, and a lot of other books that revolves around religion. Even more so, I felt overwhelmed with the amount of not-books there are. For example, there are no fiction books, no science fiction books, no mystery books, and no romance books. But there are urns, jewelry, picture frames, soundtracks, cards, and so much more. In general terms, I feel like there are a lot more antiques and collectibles in this store than books. In all the years I’ve been going to bookstores I’ve never seen one like this before.
According to Jack Perry in Bookstores, Communist and Capitalist, the bookstore that he was in is described as “the atmosphere is conduced to shopping, not to browsing; it smacks of marketing more than reading” (Perry, 109). When looking around in Bible Depot I feel like it is more of marketing than reading but it is more of browsing, not shopping. Observing the customers in Bible Depot, I found that the people who went into the store didn’t know what they were looking for and were just browsing, not shopping for something specific. But I also feel like the amount of other items in the store is for marketing the different religious items such as urns, jewelry, candles, rocks, and coins, than for the books that are sold in this so called “bookstore.” While writing this blog I just keep thinking to myself that this store is more of a gift shop than a bookstore.
While thinking about the similarities and differences between the bookstores in my hometown to Bible Depot, I’m amazed yet confused of how a so called “bookstore” can sell anything other than books. Yes, the Barnes and Nobles in my area also sells movies, board games, and magazines, in addition to the books, but Bible Depot takes this concept to a different level. When I think of a bookstore I think of a bookstore selling mystery books, romance novels, fiction books, and nonfiction books. I never thought I would come across this type of bookstore that Bible Depot portrays.
Perry also mentions that “…those book lovers deprived of the freedom of choice, would weep with joy at this lovely store” (Perry, 111). This associates with my thoughts on Bible Depot because there is a lot of sense of freedom of choice in this “lovely store” but when I think of Bible Depot I don’t think of a bookstore, I think of antiques and gadgets they have in the store. Yes, the people in Bible Depot 100% have a freedom of choice and are able to look around and browse without being interrupted and have a lot to browse at in this little store, but when I think of browsing I associate it with reading the backs of novels and looking for a new read. I can’t see this type of browsing happening in this store.
Personally, I think Bible Depot shouldn’t be considered a bookstore because of all the items it sells, with the majority not being books. I feel like the bookstore’s purpose isn’t to sell books, but the purpose is to supply people with religious items that could help assist them with what they are celebrating whether it’s a wedding or communion. Even though I disagree that Bible Depot should be considered a bookstore, it’s is really interesting to see the way Bible Depot chose to stand out from other bookstores in the area.
Google Street Photo:
Google. “Google Street View.” Google Street View Maps, Google, Sept. 2012, https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-76.7956917,3a,75y,90.15h,87.85t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s2qsiDDvwFB7r0p_ydJ1uVA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en.
Photos were taken by Michelle Principe.
“Bible Depot.” http://thebibledepot.publishpath.com/.
Perry, Jack. Bookstores, Communist and Capitalist. Bibliophilia, 2001.
“Free Online Timeline Maker.” New Timeline- Timeline, time.graphics/.