‘Like-minded’ group acquires Family Christian from private equity firm


Grand Rapids-based Family Christian operates a national chain of stores. Photo via fb.com

Jesus of Nazareth said man cannot serve two masters, God and money, and the three new owners of Family Christian Stores plan to follow his advice by using money to serve God.

The world's largest Christian retail chain, based in Grand Rapids, has partnered with three businessmen, all professing Christians, who have acquired the company from its previous private equity owners.

“This means we’re off the treadmill of being owned by private equity funds,” said Cliff Bartow, Family Christian president and CEO. “We have long-term owners that are like-minded, strong Christians, believe in the same thing we do and will give 100 percent of the profit away to Christian charities.”

The new developments will not affect any products, core operations, store structures or staff, he said. Family Christian has plans to expand, however, and will be opening stores in Missouri and Philadelphia. For now, there are no expansion plans involving West Michigan.

This new move does, however, put Family Christian’s 280 stores spread over 36 states in sight of becoming a nonprofit, something the chain’s leadership has desired for a while.

“Certainly we have the potential and the desire to become a nonprofit. We’ve already made our application to the IRS,” he said.

When that switch will officially happen is uncertain, Bartow said, but he hopes the company will be rebranded a nonprofit within a year.

All this is possible, he said, thanks to the gifts of three men who come from afar — all the way from Atlanta — where Bartow lives and struck up relationships with them.

The good Samaritans are Richard Jackson, founder and CEO of Jackson Healthcare, Michael Kendrick, co-founder and senior partner of Roswell Capital Partners, and Larry Powell, president of Powell Family Enterprises.

Bartow said he has had long-term friendships with Jackson and Kendrick.

Jackson is chairman of FaithBridge Foster Care, an organization that partners with churches in helping foster children. Bartow met Jackson when FaithBridge worked with Bartow’s church, a connection that affected Bartow in a very personal way. Through FaithBridge, he fostered a child he met on a mission trip, and eventually adopted him.

Bartow said he has also worked with Kendrick, developer and CEO of Blueprint for Life, a Christian ministry aimed at giving people life direction, and Ministry Ventures, which has launched more than 40 Christian nonprofits since 1999.

Although the new board, which will consist of the three men and one as yet undetermined outsider, has not made a decision as to which charities will receive the donations of Family Christian, Bartow said he expects it will select missions through Kendrick’s Ministry Ventures, particularly ones that will honor the “true religion” of James 1:27 by helping widows and orphans.

With these new friends and Christian allies on board, Bartow said he is sure an ambitious expansion will help grow Family Christian’s revenue, increasing financial aid for global faith-based ministries.

“We’re just thrilled that we have like-minded ownership,” Bartow said.

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