WALLA WALLA - After 37 years of supplying red letter Bibles and other Christian supplies, it was being in the red that finally closed the doors of one of downtown's retail stores.
"Basically, last year I worked for nothing. I worked all year long. I call it my year in the mission field, but I stuck it out for the year," Christian Supply and Gifts owner Earl Stanley said with a laugh.
Along with the slower sales due to more people ordering books online, the 76-year-old entrepreneur - who almost four decades ago relocated from the West side to buy the book store - said he is ready to retire.
"I was a warehouse foreman for a large floor company in Seattle ... I had never even been to Walla Walla. When I came here, it was in the middle of July and it was a little over 100 and I died," Stanley said.
Stanley said he fell in love with the town and the idea of buying what was then a 6-year-old Christian book store operated by two sisters out of what is now Bright's Candies.
Stanley and his wife sold everything and moved to Walla Walla, where Stanley's wife would pursue a successful nursing career at Walla Walla General Hospital.
He would focus on running the bookstore, which he later renamed to Christian Supply and Gifts.
The store has moved several times since he has owned it, mostly due to having new landlords who wanted more rent or who had different plans for the location.
Stanley said his first few years were lean, but eventually business picked, the loan was paid off and the red letter Bibles, supplies and gifts were keeping him very much in the black.
But the Internet would prove to be too great a thorn in his side.
"We (book stores) have all fallen victim to the Internet because it is just one of those things; you can't fight it. It is just a way of life for people," Stanley said.
Even Stanley concedes that in the future he will most likely end up ordering some of his Christian reading online, though he will prefer to go to Spokane to purchase from bookstores.
His hope is that another Bible bookstore will open downtown.
As for buyers of his store, several deals came close, but none manifested.
So a few weeks back the signs were put up that Christian Supply and Gifts would close.
On Saturday at 1:30 p.m., the last day of sales to the public, Stanley estimated he had sold all but five percent of his stock; what remains will be donated to church libraries and other nonprofits that are willing to come by on Monday at 10 a.m. with a box to fill.
As for saying goodbye to it all, Stanley said he won't miss the responsibility, just the people.
"I have enjoyed this a lot because probably 98 percent of our customers come through our door are happy and smiling."