Friendship Bookstore celebrating 50th year

BURNHAM – Theil and Andrea Kauffman attribute the success of Friendship Bookstore, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, to their faith in God’s guidance – and to the community and the churches in the area, of course.

“We have survived 50 years through some difficult business times,” Theil said. “We’re not super great managers; we’re not super great business people.”

Their conviction lead to the slogan they chose for the milestone: “Celebrating 50 years of God’s faithfulness.”

Those 50 years began when Ray and Wilma French purchased Cavanaugh Book and Bible Shop on Chestnut Street in Lewistown. The Frenches already owned an electronics repair shop called Das Musikhous in Belleville, which they combined with Vallee Book Service in White Hall in 1961. After adding Cavanaugh’s to the mix in 1964, they changed the name to Friendship Book Store and moved it to Market Street in Lewistown.

In 1966, the business moved to West Fourth Street under the name Friendship Book Store and Country Gift Shoppe. At this point, the store grew, serving not only Mifflin County but surrounding counties as well in Christian books, church supplies, Sunday school and vacation Bible school curriculum, greeting cards and gifts. The business stayed on West Fourth Street for five years before moving again, this time to 19 S. Brown St., Lewistown.

It was around this time, in the early ’70s, when Theil joined the Friendship staff, working part time for Ray after school and on weekends. When Theil went off to Messiah College in 1972, he continued working at the store on the weekends. After graduating in 1976, he taught for two years in the Mifflin County School District before going back to the book store full time as the manager in the fall of 1978.

The Kauffmans purchased the store from Ray in January 1987 and changed the name to Friendship Bookstore. In 2004, they moved it to its present location, in Burnham’s Mifflin County Commons. The store serves individuals and churches in Mifflin, Juniata, Snyder, Huntingdon and Centre counties, selling everything from Bibles and robes to jewelry and scarves.

The couple said the internet has affected sales over the years, but they offer a focus on customer service internet merchants do not. They can special order products and receive them quickly without charging customers freight. They also offer a “generous return policy,” Theil said.

Friendship Bookstore currently employs five people, including Theil and Andrea.

In celebration of the anniversary this month, special coupons were sent to customers on Friendship Bookstore’s mailing list. Customers who join the mailing list in August are eligible for the offer as well. Customers who spend $50 will receive a free gift. A drawing for a $50 gift card will be held at the end of the month. Some books, CDs and DVDs are on sale for $5. A book-signing tea with Beverly Lewis, author of many Amish fiction books, will be held on Sept. 6 at Calvary Bible Church. Tickets for the tea must be purchased by Aug. 30 at the book store.

Located at 325 W. Freedom Ave in Burnham, Friendship Bookstore opens at 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday. It closes at 6 p.m. except on Fridays, when it is open until 8 p.m. The store is closed on Sundays.

Theil, Andrea and Friendship Bookstore staff can be reached by calling 248-5733.