Customer service and staff care contribute to store’s 69-year longevity.

“Feel connected with God”—that’s the slogan on Hackman’s Bible Bookstore’s website, and for decades that’s what the store has been helping others to do.

“We’ve been in business for 69 years,” says Joe Hackman. “My dad started with a ‘Bookstore to Your Door,’ which was a truck that he used to sell his wares from place to place.”

Today Hackman’s Bible Bookstore occupies a 20,000-square-foot building in Whitehall, Pennsylvania, and strives to be a light in the community.

CUSTOMER SERVICE AND EVENTS

Hackman started his apprenticeship roughly 40 years ago at the family store in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “At 13 I started ringing the cash register. Then I went to college to become a teacher. I taught for two years, got married, and came back to the business as the manager. I did that for about 10 years before I bought the store from my dad, J. Walter Hackman, a former CBA president.

While they’ve faced some real health challenges over the years, Hackman says God saw them through it. “I saw His leading as our business grew.”

Customer service is rule No. 1 at Hackman’s. “One thing my dad always said was ‘Service is the rent we pay for our stay here on earth.’ So our obsession has been customer service. We’ve done many little things to make that happen through the years. For example, we do a ton of events. These range from financial presentations to showing movies. We even had a comedy night. We are constantly servicing the community by having workshops.”

TOUGH TIMES

With giant rivals in an ultra-competitive environment, retail is a tough business.

“We are just hanging on,” says Hackman. “We once had a very large business, but success now is to break even. We’ve been doing that and paying our bills, so there’ve been good things in spite of the challenges we’ve faced from time to time.

“My buddy, Chuck Wallington, and I talk about it,” continues Joe, “and we’re not really sure where all of this is headed. We used to make plans for five years ahead. To do that now is very difficult. I say we’re going to have to keep selling things other than religious product to pay the bills. We have to ask what kind of products and services we can do differently.”

ONE OF THE KEYS

To compete, the Hackmans have built solid relationships in their community and within their store.

“We try to do all we can at the front counter,” he says. “We have a tremendous staff that does a lot of little extras. For example, we sell ice cream now. Many times for a good customer we’ll just say, ‘Go to the freezer and help yourself to the ice cream, courtesy of the store.’”

Hackman’s penchant for customer service likely finds its genesis at least in part in the way employees are treated.

“We try very hard to be fair to them in the economics part of it,” he says. “I try to talk to every employee every day about something other than the store. We have huddles every morning where we end up having some laughs. Then we do some giveaways. Last week, I told them I had such a good feeling about how they were working that I gave them all gas certificates.”

With 12 employees—down from 25—Hackman’s has kept its staff for long periods of time. “We have one [employee] that’s been here 29 years,” he says. “We have another that’s been here 33 years. We hardly have any turnover at all.”

He adds, “We’re going to have to continue to offer outstanding customer service, and we’ve still got to treat our employees well, too.”

— Von Mitchell