By JOHN FORTMEYER
EUGENE — The closure this summer of the 11-store Tree of Life chain in three states was going to leave this sizable city with one less Christian bookstore.
But another Oregon-based Christian book chain is stepping in to fill the gap — in Eugene, at least.
Rick Adams, owner of the Salem-based Rainbow West Book & Bible stores, on July 1 took over the space leased by Tree of Life in Eugene’s Valley River Center.
But at the same time, Rainbow West is closing its Bible Book House at 1870 Lana Ave N.E. in Salem. Long ago a roller skating rink, it had been converted into a Christian bookstore in the 1950s by Al Fuller and family, but was acquired decades later by Rainbow West.
Adams said staff at the store will be transferred to his company’s other Salem location, at Lancaster Mall. But the Lana Avenue building will continue to serve as the chain’s headquarters, although portions of the building may be leased to non-profit agencies.
The changes mean the Rainbow West chain currently consists of seven stores — in Eugene, Albany, Salem, Oregon City, and Gresham in Oregon, and two in Vancouver, Wash.
At its peak years ago under the leadership of his father Dave Adams, who is now retired, Rainbow West operated 14 stores in Oregon and southwest Washington.
Rick Adams says that while the Christian bookstore industry is obviously facing challenges from online companies and large national retailers, he strongly believes there still will be a role for local stores.
“Although there is an overall trend of going more digital, I think our communities are still hungry for a local resource to help people grow in their faith and get meaningful gifts.” he said.
Adams also noted that his chain is selling more Bibles than ever, and that Christian publishers are “getting on board” by lowering prices to bargain levels.
Tree of Life’s other locations upon its demise this summer were in Troutdale, Lincoln City and Seaside in Oregon; Centralia, Auburn, Tulalip and Burlington in Washington; and near Redding, Calif.
By JOHN FORTMEYER