MODESTO — After nearly four decades of serving area Christians and Christian organizations, Beardsley's Book & Bible has closed.
"I can't compete with the Internet and the direct buying that the churches and the people are being able to do," said Kelly Chacon, whose parents, Les and Linda Beardsley, opened the store in downtown Modesto 38 years ago. "They're buying direct and eliminating the middleman, which is me."
In 1976, the Beardsley family bought the former Bible Book and Church Supply store, which dated back to 1956. They operated at the Ninth Street site for a year before moving to a McHenry Avenue location twice the size, according to the Beardsley's Book & Bible website.
Over the years, the Beardsleys moved and expanded several times, at one point operating stores in Ceres and Stockton, as well as two sites in Modesto.
Chacon detailed the lengthy history of Beardsley's various locations:
"We started out down on J and Ninth, then moved that store to McHenry by Party City," she said. "Then we moved that store to Coffee (Road)."
The family also operated a store in Vintage Faire Mall for a time, before relocating it across Dale Road to the shopping center that includes Trader Joe's.
The store in Stockton sold to another operator in the 1990s; when that person defaulted on the loan, "we reopened it, and when the lease ran out, we closed it," Chacon said.
The Coffee Road store relocated to a large site in McHenry Village in 2002.
At its height, Beardsley's employed 30 people, said Chacon, who bought the store from her mother three years ago; Les Beardsley died nine years before that.
"When Dad passed away, we closed Ceres," Chacon said. "A year later, I closed the Dale Road store and consolidated it into the McHenry Village store."
But business continued to dwindle, leading Chacon to move the shop to a smaller location in McHenry Village 18 months ago. By that time, she employed six people. One of them worked for the store for nearly 20 years.
"Now, it's down to just me," she said in late August just before closing the business.
Customers reacted strongly to a post on The Modesto Bee's Facebook page about the closure, sharing memories of past purchases and experiences.
"I love Beardsley's!" Deanna Garcia said. "My mom would take my sister and I there after church as a treat. They usually had a Bible story cartoon on.
"My mom bought me my first Bible from Beardsley's and had my name engraved on it with gold lettering. Such a precious gift. I'm so sad to see it close."
Bonnie Luna said she selected her first Bible as a child at Beardsley's. The store also introduced her to the "Psalty the Psalm" book and WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) souvenirs.
"I would put on the headphones and listen to albums of artists I had never heard before, deciding if I wanted to buy it," she said. "Lots of cool memories. Too bad my baby girl won't get those memories too."
She said the decision to close was tough but unavoidable. "It's a ministry, but we also have to pay overhead," she said.
As for what's next for her, she's not sure.
"I'm just trying to go one step at a time," she said. "Then I'll move on to a different season of my life."
Modesto Bee Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter @pattyguerra.