CBA’s inaugural Next conference, Next 2012, held at the AmericasMart Atlanta Jan. 12-13 during the gift mart, featured a very special presentation of Jim Carlson Spirit of Excellence awards to four Christian retail stores exemplifying a high caliber of retailing that involves their communities and focuses on ministry efforts and relationships. The presentation took place Thursday morning, after a welcome from Premier Sponsor Spring Arbor’s Chris Smith and a breakfast sponsored by Parable Christian Stores. CBA Executive Director Curtis Riskey and Smith presented the awards.

Tammy Garner and her team from The Master’s Parable Christian Store (Clovis, NM) accepted the award for Marketing (l to r: Chris Smith, Teresa Teune, Katherine Snodgrass, Tammy Garner, and Curtis Riskey). Among other programs to encourage customer retention and community, The Master’s organized The Masters’ Ambassadors, a group of loyal customers who are ambassadors for the store but more importantly ambassadors for the Master, Jesus Christ.

Lighthouse Christian Bookstore (Bedford, IN) was chosen to receive the Customer Experience award. Reading programs, Family Karaoke Night, an Easter Resurrection Celebration, and even a Noah’s Ark float for local parades offers customers and new groups a total store experience. Owners Keith and Brenda Harrison accepted the award. “We thank God for the many blessings He has provided to make this award possible for us,” Brenda said after being presented with the honor. “We would also like to thank our staff, our customers, and our many suppliers for their hard work and support of our bookstore ministry.”

The Community Outreach award went to Bill Ballou (pictured right with his wife, Ila) of The Solid Rock (Kearney, NE) for engaging the community in effective ways, including involvement in the local Rotary Club and close connections with area churches and other service groups.

Paul Kuntz of Arrowhead Parable (Johnson City, NY) took the award for Merchandising. Arrowhead’s slogan, “More than a bookstore,” exemplifies the store’s propensity for going beyond product mix and presentation to reaching out and engaging the community. “Merchandising is one of the keys to selling,” said Kuntz. “It’s an honor to have been selected by CBA and recognized in this way. Effective merchandising takes time and creativity. Receiving this award is an encouragement to keep on creating displays that will draw our customers in…for them to stop and take a look at product that can and does really impact lives. Again, our thanks to CBA and Spring Arbor for this award.”

For more on these award-winning stores, read the article, “Christian Stores: For a Time Such as This,” in the February 2012 issue of CBA Retailers+Resources magazine, available via free digital subscription at and in print to CBA members and paid subscribers.