Biz Buzz: Christian retailer merges locations

The Parable, a Christian bookstore franchise with two locations in San Luis Obispo County, is consolidating its local operations by moving from two downtown locations in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero into a single shop.

The new shop is slated for the Higuera Plaza shopping center near Tank Farm and Suburban roads in southern San Luis Obispo, anchored by Food 4 Less and Trader Joe’s.

“We’re looking forward to this,” said Steve Potratz, Parable’s chief executive officer.

“We just came to the end of our lease on both stores, and it didn’t make sense to operate two in this economic environment.”

The new store will be bigger, about 4,100 square feet, and offers what Potratz called a significant reduction in rent from the downtown San Luis Obispo location.

“Frankly, I think the rents downtown are getting totally out of hand,” Potratz said, although he declined to say how much he would be saving with the move.

He’s planning on trying new things in the store, including the addition of a bargain-book section, an expansion of its entertainment section and space for people to sit down with a friend, Potratz said.

“This is good news because it shows there’s a lot of retail activity going on here,” said Preston Thomas, the leasing agent for Rossetti Company.

The Parable Group, which owns The Parable bookstore, saw considerable growth up to a couple of years ago.

Its franchising arm had acquired another Christian retailer, Insight Retail Group, the parent company of Lemstone Christian Stores and the second-largest franchise in Christian retail. In 2008, the company had 118 member stores and 64 franchises, Potratz said.

Because of what Potratz calls “an extremely difficult economic environment,” his store numbers have dropped to 100 member stores and 50 franchises.

Potratz will use the new store as a flagship for his franchises as he tests products, and how to market them, in that location.

Although he knows he is leaving a prime downtown location, one that he called “the number one spot in downtown San Luis Obispo,” he thinks the new store will be more convenient for his customers, with free parking and easier access off Highway 101, he said.

It is not yet known what business is moving into Parable’s downtown spot, Thomas said.

— Melanie Cleveland

On the Horizon Communications, a public relations agency in Pismo Beach, recently hired Jamie Relth as an account coordinator and writer. Relth is a Cal Poly graduate and former editor of Central Coast Magazine, and has worked as a freelance journalist.

— Julia Hickey