East Penn Press

Friday, November 16, 2018
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY KELLY c. vanek cassidy communications, inc.Joe Hackman and his wife, Marcia Hackman, co-owners of Hackman’s Bible Book Store, Whitehall. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY KELLY c. vanek cassidy communications, inc.Joe Hackman and his wife, Marcia Hackman, co-owners of Hackman’s Bible Book Store, Whitehall.

Hackman’s Bible Book Store closing its doors in good faith

Friday, February 2, 2018 by MAKENNA MASENHEIMER Special to The Press in Focus

After 70 years, Hackman’s Bible Book Store, along Mickley Road in Whitehall Township, will close its doors April 30.

“We started in 1947. It was a book truck. My dad [J. Walter Hackman] set up a store in a truck [Bookstore to Your Door] and he had an 80-mile radius,” says Joe Hackman, store-owner along with his wife, Marcia.

After that modest start, Hackman’s book store moved to three different store fronts as the business out grew each space. J. Walter and his wife, Ruth, settled into a 20,000-square-foot facility at 1341 Mickley Road, off MacArthur Road, north of Lehigh Valley Mall, about 32 years ago. Joe and Marcia bought the store from his parents about 30 years ago.

“We were raised very conservative Mennonite. It was amazing that my dad came in with two goals and that was to be ecumenical and that everyone was welcome,” says Joe.

“Religion is so segmented. It’s very controversial. It was such pleasure for us to open a store where everyone was welcome. It’s a lot deeper than just selling a book at the counter.”

Over time, Hackman’s expanded its focus from supplying churches to offering faith-based resources for individuals as well as gifts.

“It turned from a church store to a really nice gift store,” says Joe.

“The churches started to buy online, which I understand. So, we started selling [space] heaters. We sold way over 2,000 of those. We got into clothing and food. We went into different avenues,” says Marcia.

The diversity of product and customer-base distinguished Hackman’s as an accessible community resource. A 200-seat conference room was host to Christian comedians, health seminars and Bible-study groups.

“We’re ending with an amazing ministry. We have a women’s Bible study that is really full,” says Joe.

The decision to close Hackman’s arose from financial and health reasons.

“Seven years ago, I felt God was telling me: ‘Seven years [until closing],’ When it came to the seventh year, we really were doing poorly but I wanted to fight it. I did all I could,” Joe says.

“[I wonder] could we have made it? I have a financial head, too, and we needed to stop. Our accountant always said, ‘If you have to start taking money out your savings, then you need to end,’” says Marcia.

“There comes a point when you’re older, it’s like a part-time job trying to take care of yourself, and I think some of that’s the issue, too,” Marcia says.

There has been an outpouring of support since the closing was announced. Faithful customers expressed their love of the store and a desire for it to continue operating.

“I just kept going and never realizing the impact it was on the community. I’m just very surprised how people are so upset,” says Marcia.

“They’ve really taken it personally. It’s just amazing,” adds Joe.

Plans are in the works for continued resources for Hackman’s customers even after the store’s closing.

“I’m in negotiations now for a company to take my mailing list and tailor it with the heaters and stuff so it will definitely have a flavor of Hackman’s,” Joe says.

“We had a distributor in Pittsburgh that we would buy a lot of our product from. So, they’re looking into somehow helping our customers through that,” says Marcia.

Although ia business, Hackman’s strove to be a ministry to its customers. Friendships developed, comfort was found in times of tragedy and people searched for answers to their spiritual questions.

“I waited on a guy this morning who said, ‘I never read the Bible. Now that I’m 70, it’s about time I read it,’” says Joe.

“We get that kind of story all the time.”