MANKATO — For nearly 40 years the Lighthouse Christian Book & Gift Shop has been the place where generations have marked baptisms, first communions, graduations and weddings with special gifts.
What most shoppers didn’t know is that the decades of profits from the store all went to building churches in Third World countries, from India to Cuba.
At the end of the month the store, just atop the Madison Avenue hill, will close its doors as it faces the pressures of online retailing that have affected so many brick and mortar businesses.
“It’s bittersweet. I think we’ll be missed,” said owner Cathy Bristol. “Retail has just changed and it’s tough for small family businesses.”
Her son, Matt Bristol, who has long managed the store, said they will begin a closing sale Monday that will last until the end of June.
He said many churches and individuals who used to buy from them now order directly from companies online. And the store was in need of high-cost upgrades for computer systems and new chip reader technology.
“And the environment of retail, with all the online, has just changed,” Matt Bristol said.
The store was originally opened in St. Peter by other owners in 1978 and Bristol bought into it the next year and moved it to Mankato, relocating to what was then the new Village East strip mall at the corner of Hoffman Road and Victory Drive South.
“The only two tenants there were us and a liquor store,” she said. “People got a laugh out of that, but we got along really well with him.”
In 1989 they built the free-standing building they now occupy. Next door is a small standalone building that houses the office of State Farm Insurance, owned and operated by her husband, Lonnie Bristol. They plan to keep the Lighthouse building. Lonnie Bristol is continuing to operate his insurance business.
While the store had decades of…