A Belmont man bought the last two French-language Bibles at the Parable Bible Bookstore last week to give away in Africa.
But Dan Dore will need to shop elsewhere from now on as the store will close on March 30.
“We were glad it stayed open as long as it could,” said Dore, who has bought at least 60 Bibles through the years for his missionary work in Ghana, Liberia and Guinea.
But the internet killed the Bible store.
“Shrinking sales due mostly to a cultural shift in online buying,” said store owner Mark Cheeseman.
He’s owned the store at 85 Manchester St. for the past 31 years, but at age 67, Cheeseman wasn’t ready to retire.
“Since we started, as far as Bibles themselves, there’s been a lot of new editions, but as far as people reading still, online has transformed the way people think these days.”
Nathaniel Shrift of Dover came to the store with his extended family last week.
“Definitely just looking for a bargain and another excuse to come to check the place out,” said Shrift, a repeat customer.
The store manager at the Morning Star Christian bookstore in Nashua was sad to hear about Parable closing.
“We were so bummed out,” said the manager, who wanted to be identified only as Victoria M. “We hate to see that. We like to have other Christian book stores in the area.”
Competition from the internet is “a formidable opponent for the small Christian bookstore,” she said, in terms of pricing and free shipping.
Her store plans to remain open for “as long as the Lord wills,” she said.
Demographics also didn’t work in Parable’s favor.
“We are the least churched state,” Cheeseman said. “It’s like our type of store is a specialty store — a specialty bookstore in an environment that is not the Bible belt of America by any means.”
A 2018 Gallup poll showed New Hampshire as one of three states with majorities who are not religious. It said 51 percent of Granite Staters identified as “not religious,” 26 percent as “moderately religious” and 23 percent as “very religious.”
A 2016 Gallup poll revealed New Hampshire had the lowest percentage of “very religious” residents in the nation. By 2018, New Hampshire had climbed to No. 48, surpassed only by Vermont (16 percent) and Maine (22 percent).
Cheeseman bought the store, then called the Bible Bookstore, before a name change during the 1990s. Besides Bibles, the store carried an assortment of Christian books, cards and other items.
The store’s Bibles ranged in price from $4 to $149, but the going-out-of-business sale slashed prices 30 to 50 percent on many items.
Greeting cards, many with religious themes and verses, sold well but couldn’t support the store, Cheeseman said.
Sales have been dropping for at least the last decade, “ever since the recession,” he said.
Customer Grace Taylor said she bought Bibles, books and pictures from the store through the years and was disappointed to hear that the store was closing.
“It’s pretty much a sign of the times,” Taylor said.