DOVER — On Facebook, owner Nannette Jones had a simple response to why The Branch Christian bookstore is closing after 25 years.
“I’m sorry,” the post read in response to a question. “We just did not have enough business to stay open.”
Late last week, as a steady stream of loyal customers paid for items marked down 20 percent, Ms. Jones explained a bit further. While Wal-Mart’s arrival staggered the small business, Amazon’s online reach and free shipping assured the demise, she said.
“We couldn’t compete with online shopping,” Ms. Jones said. “A lot of people are happy to sit at home in front of their computer and shop, and then have whatever they bought shipped to them.”
When May sales disappointed, the decision was made. For a year or so, Ms. Jones knew a dramatic shift in business was mandatory for survival, and a possible move from the Greentree Shopping Center in west Dover to a spot on more heavily traveled U.S. 13 didn’t pan out.
Alas, a quarter-century tradition comes to an end sometime in July. Since announcing the closure on June 8, Ms. Jones said discounted items have been flying off the shelves. This week begins a 30 percent markdown that likely will hasten the sales even more.
“Things are moving a lot quicker than I thought,” she said.
In a 20-minute or so rush of customers, patrons regularly expressed their sorrow of the closing while reliving memories of past purchases and how they were used in the Christian faith.
Each exchange was an emotional tug on her heart, Ms. Jones said.
“It’s hard right now,” she said. “I grew up loving the industry and the customers who came to us for so many years. I just want to thank them all for supporting us.”
Owning a Christian bookstore came natural to Ms. Jones, whose father started a business in Milton when she was 6.
“I never thought I would do this for 25 years, but who does when you’re young?” she said.
Ms. Jones believes the store accomplished its mission in “helping people in their relationship with God. The important thing was that when people came in here looking for help, we were able to point them in the right direction.”
The store owner’s future plans are unsettled, and she hasn’t had time to look for another job with the store closing duties required. The Branch also employed two full-time and three part-time staff.
The store at 128 Greentree Drive is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 674-4652.