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Books can have such a powerful message and reach so many people just from one person writing their thoughts out on paper. Stories can carry an even stronger meaning and connection to their readers when they come from locals and highlight the culture of a very unique area like Holmes County.
"A lot of local people write. The local people feel they have to write down their stories so the world can know them. They share stories of their joys and pitfalls," said Eli Hochstetler, owner of Gospel Book Store. It is these stories that people immerse themselves in as they devour each page of their fantasies or true stories.
Gospel Book Store is home to books from many Amish non-fiction and fiction authors as well as hundreds of popular authors from across the nation.
Eli and Vesta Hochstetler bought the business from Abe Mast is 1975. At the time, Eli had been working as a sales rep while his wife worked as a school teacher. Eli would spend his days pounding the pavement, sometimes not even making it home until 9 in the evening.
Being a lover of books, Vesta suggested that they purchase the bookstore. "I never had an interest in books and I was not a very good reader, said Eli. "I loved math and marketing, but Vesta did love books." So three days after discussing the purchase of the store they bought it.
Eli was happy to announce that in two years, the book store will be celebrating 40 years in business. "In 2015 we will celebrate all year long," joked Eli.
"When we started we had very little inventory, but if we didn't have what the customer wanted we would order it for them."
Today, Gospel Book Store carries a large inventory of books by popular national and local authors; Bibles and Bible covers; and cards and gifts all with inspirational quotes on them. Walls are lined with artwork all with the most beautiful pictures of animals, country landscapes and natures beauty and a line of scripture.
"We do well with our local Gospel music," said Andrea Povick, social media and marketing specialist.
"I think some of these local artists should have national recognition," said Hochstetler who loves being able to promote the local talent in his store.
Gospel Book Store offers a unique way of finding music with their Burn Bar. Essentially, if the customer cannot find the songs they are looking for in the store, the staff at Gospel Book Store can burn the songs to a CD for them.
Some of the many gift items include coffee mugs, Willow Tree and Precious Moments collectable figurines, as well as a new line of Montana West purses.
Eli takes pride in his staff that works hard to help people find exactly what they are looking for. "When the customer can't say exactly what it is they are looking for they give the workers a general idea of what they are looking for and they can find it."
Hochstetler said some people will just give the staff an idea of a plot of the book they are looking for or start humming out the tune of the song they can't quite remember the name and a staff member will be able to figure out exactly what it is.
All the staff members at the store seem to enjoy what they do and interacting with customers. "I love books," said Povick, who considers herself a "book-a-holic."
Gospel Book store will be holding their annual book signing November 9 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the store. The book signing has become a popular event for the store as well as the town with over 20 national, local and Amish authors coming to the event.
"We have done a lot of various book signings [throughout the years]," said Hochstetler. "People read a lot of books but they rarely get to have that connection with the author."
Gospel Book Store decided they would hold a large book signing in order to bring as many popular authors together for a day so that readers could meet as many of their favorite authors as possible.
Personalized books make great Christmas gifts. "We have friends all over the world and we think that it would be nice to get them something for Christmas," said Eli. We may not necessarily know what they need or even know them well enough to know what they like and we don't want to spend a lot of money but we want to get them something special.
What could be more special than a personalized book to a friend? "We get them a local story, personalized by the author to our friend. Very few people get such a personalized gift and your friend will gain a knowledge for the culture," said Eli.
"The people love it! They find out these authors are real people just like them and the people always have such unique questions for the authors," said Eli.
Gospel Book Store will also hold a customer appreciation sale on November 11 from 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. with 20 percent off all items (some exclusions will apply.) Starting in December, the store will have weekly sales featuring different items each week up until Christmas.
Gospel Book Store is located at 4900 Oak Street in Berlin. Visit them online at www.mygospelbookstore.com to see their inventory or order online. Store hours are Mon-Thu, 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Fri, 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sat, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information call 330-893-2523.