|By Holly McCray
Both Cokesbury stores in Oklahoma will close on April 13.
The date was recently confirmed. Cokesbury reported in November that it would close all 57 U.S. stores.
Cokesbury will focus on online and call-center sales, plus a team of customer service representatives. Cokesbury is the retail division of The United Methodist Publishing House.
Two representatives will be based in the state, at Tulsa and Oklahoma City— cities where the current stores are located. They also will partner with local churches and other entities for special events; for example, the Cokesbury on-site sales will continue during Annual Conference.
Julie Wise will be the agent based in Oklahoma City. The Tulsa representative had not been named as of Feb. 25. Contact information for them will be posted at CokesburyNext.com and Cokesbury.com.
Wise has served as manager of the OKC store since it opened 11 years ago.
"I’m excited because I really do like my job, and I like the customers," she said.
Meanwhile, Wise and her staff continue striving to offer quality service at the store, 6907 N. May Ave.
"We’ve been very busy," Wise said.
Other staffers are actively job-hunting, she noted. Their employment continues through that final day
"I think it’s going to be a very emotional week," Wise commented.
News of the closings triggered efforts nationally, including petition drives, to overturn the decision. But Cokesbury, like a number of mainstream bookstores, succumbed to the growing digital retail market. Last year on Cyber Monday—following Black Friday and only weeks after the closing news—Cokesbury set a record for online sales.
Wise said Oklahoma City store customers have expressed sadness and anger, but also reminisced. "I have had so many ministers tell me that Cokesbury was such a powerful part of their walk in becoming a minister, and they’re going to miss the store. It was a pastors’ meeting place."
The Conference’s Department of Communications heard a few similar stories. One caller said he chose United Methodism because of what he learned from the resources in a store. A disappointed pastor in western Oklahoma said, "They’re family!"
Nationwide, stores began closing in January. The call center hours already have been expanded, and website upgrades continue.