Negotiations underway to save bookstore

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Lutheran church bookseller Augsburg Fortress Canada is negotiating to take over the operations of the Anglican Book Centre, a move that would allow the Anglican retailer’s storefront operation in Toronto to remain open.

The Anglican Church of Canada’s communications and information resources committee on Feb. 9 unanimously endorsed the talks, which began late last year. Last October, an Anglican committee reviewing the church’s work and budget recommended the store’s closure in favor of an Internet and telephone-based retail operation.

“This would become a real win-win scenario. Customers could still come in to 80 Hayden St. (in Toronto) and be served by the same staff. (Augsburg) would pay us rent. We would receive revenue from the leasing of our name and have no financial risk,” said Anglican church treasurer Peter Blachford in an interview. He added that Augsburg Fortress would carry volumes produced by ABC Publishing, the centre’s publishing arm, but declined to disclose financial terms.

Cautioning that negotiations were still in progress, Augsburg Fortress Canada director Andy Seal noted that one example of savings would come from merging customer lists and product lines. “It would mean the store itself would not close. That is a tremendous bookstore with a long and storied history. (Its closing) would be a tremendous loss to Toronto and the entire region,” he said in an interview from Augsburg Fortress Canada’s offices in Kitchener, Ont.

Mr. Seal said he contacted Anglican church managers after an announcement in the fall of 2005 that six Anglican Book Centre staff would be laid off due to declining sales. “I said we went through it (financial issues) a number of years ago and I offered any support I could give.”

At the time, talks did not proceed and last fall, one of the Anglican church’s governing bodies, the Council of General Synod, approved the closure of the storefront. Both Mr. Blachford and Mr. Seal said they hoped negotiations could be wrapped up by June, when both churches will hold their national conventions in Winnipeg.

Augsburg Fortress Canada is a non-profit operation whose mission supports the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, but it is self-sustaining and not subsidized by the church.

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Solange De Santis was a reporter for the <em>Anglican Journal</em> from 2000 to 2008.

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