Respect earned and deserved

Published 9:12 pm Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Especially in these days of cookie-cutter big box outlets, it is not the big-name stores that give a community’s business base its character. That important honor goes to the proverbial mom and pop stores, the eclectic shops that defy simple description, the restaurants where the owner wears an apron and carries a spatula — those are the businesses that give a community its unique flavor.

For many years, all through the reigns of the great (and mostly defunct) bookstore chains like Walden’s, B. Dalton and Barnes and Noble, one of those businesses lending its distinctiveness to the city of Suffolk has been the Christian Bookstore. Even through the age of Amazon, the little shop has held its own.

Maybe it has been supernaturally protected from the ravages of competition. That would make sense, considering that Linda Saunders and her husband Gary both believed God led them to open the store in 1973.

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Gary Saunders said his wife often prayed and cried with employees and customers in the store. She always made sure everything she did — with regard to the store and otherwise — brought glory to God.

Linda Saunders had to sell the store that had meant so much to her and gave her a chance to serve God in 2005, when the ravages of Parkinson’s disease had finally taken a toll on her that proved too great for her to ignore. She died Thursday at the age of 71.

It’s a telling point that Andrew Mattox — the current owner, who bought the store from Saunders — was so moved by Linda Saunders’ legacy that he posted a special notice to the store’s customers on Facebook.

“Linda leaves behind a legacy of faith and obedience to God and His call on her life to start the Christian Bookstore of Suffolk, Va., to be of service to the people and churches of the surrounding communities,” Mattox wrote. “Linda Saunders’ legacy will always continue to leave ripple effects in the lives of others because of a little ol’ Christian bookstore she began from nothing but faith.”

Even setting aside the great testimony Linda Saunders gave for her faith, on a purely secular level, she gave a similarly great testimony for her community with her faithful stewardship of one of Suffolk’s unique retail shops. It’s good to know that she was so well respected for her work.