‘I hope that we can be a witness to our Lord’
A-60-year-old Christian bookshop owned by a Baptist couple is set for a new lease of life as it moves into new premises
Footprints Christian Shop is swapping one end of Skinnersgate in Darlington to move further up the road into a new home on the corner.
Footprints is owned by John and Pam Gaines of Bishop Auckland Baptist Church, who purchased the new building with the lease on the old one expiring.
The new premises was formerly a William Hill betting shop which had been vacant for around four years.
‘It needed taking back to brick, and the work put off other people who viewed it,' John said, 'but when my wife Pam and I saw it, we had a vision of what it could be.'
It’s a bigger site which is crucial as the business had outgrown the old shop. Internet sales are a key revenue stream (‘If you cannot beat Amazon, then sell on their site: much of our income is from Amazon sales’), and the room in which they were processed was tiny. Now staff will have a large room upstairs, with extra rooms, fitted out with kitchen units and worktops.
Although on the same road as before, it’s also in a much better position.
‘We are moving from the end which has seen a dramatic fall in footfall; the new shop is at the busy end of the long shopping street of Skinnergate, with a car park behind the shop and two hours free parking,’ John said.
Work has been ongoing to renovate the building in readiness for the opening this week. (There will be an official opening in February). The ground and first floor ceilings have been removed and replaced, bookies fittings removed, new flooring and carpets installed, and re-plastering and fresh painting carried out.
John says the Lord ‘was in it’ throughout.
‘The price we paid was very low, our solicitor lowered his charges considerably as we are a Christian shop; we employed a Christian joiner and he was so excited at working on a Christian shop he asked his men to work for a lower wage, and he also worked for that low wage.
'There are other examples too which have enabled us to get to this stage. The local council received funding to renovate Skinnergate, and agreed to paint the outside of the building and make the new shop signs.
‘Owning the freehold and no longer having to pay rent will cut a large expense from the business.’
The business began trading in 1962, meaning the move is taking place on its 60th anniversary. It had been in its old premises, rented from local Quakers, for 30 years. John and Pam have owned Footprints since 2005 (John believes the only other Christian bookshop in the North East is also run by Baptists, at Stockton Baptist Tabernacle). They are not active daily in the shop, as John is now 72 and Pam is 69.
The shop is managed by Sue Carpenter. ‘She is so dedicated,’ says John. ‘She works many hours extra, and is always looking at ways to improve sales.
‘Sue has handled the internet sales alone for a long time, but God brought John Lambert to us, and he has taken on much of that task. We also have a lovely lady, Irene Turnbull, who works so well in the shop.
‘We know our team are excellent, so are happy to step back.’
He adds, ‘I hope the new premises will be a place for all believers and those not yet saved to feel comfortable in. I hope that we can be a witness to our Lord, and see precious souls come to him.’