When former IT consultant Justin Story was laid off from a local computer services company, he took it as a sign to take a new direction with his career.

"Friends and family always told me you should either run for office or go into sales," Story said.

Story went for sales, and worked in merchant services for several years when he was presented with yet another sign during an unexpected period of unemployment.

Story and his mother ran into Misti Gunter, the manager of the former Christian Book Outlet in Conway Commons, at a fundraising event at Chick-fil-A.

"I asked her why CBO closed," Story said, "and she assured me it wasn’t financial, so I asked her, ‘do you miss it?’ and she said, ‘I loved working there, but most of all I loved helping people.’"

Story said knowing Conway’s Christian bookstore hadn’t closed due to finances or a lack of interest really made him think.

"If I was going to take a leap of faith and start a business I don’t know much about — this is perfect," he said.

After going back and forth with God for a while, Story said, he realized the bookstore could be a viable career option giving him the opportunity to fulfill his entrepreneurial spirit while also helping others.

Although Story believes God led him to own a Christian bookstore, during the initial process there were a lot of days when he didn’t know if he would be able to do it physically or financially, he said.

Never having negotiated retail space before, Story said, the process proved to be difficult and expensive, but he was able to reach a mutual agreement with the property manager.

"We were battling with other, bigger stores for this space and we beat them all out," he said.

From that point on Story put God in control, and everything has fallen into place, he said, from the design of the logo to the inventory on the shelves.

Story’s bookstore, known as Lighthouse Christian Supply, will be housed in the former location of Christian Book Outlet in the Conway Commons shopping center.

Although, unlike its predecessor, Lighthouse Christian Supply is a full retail bookstore that will sell a variety of Christian merchandise.

The store includes an extensive card and gift wrap selection, Christian t-shirts, caps and jewelry, including purity rings, home decor, including Willow Tree figurines, church supplies, wedding and baby items and a children’s section that has options for young children like Veggie Tales and Bernstein Bears as well as youth.

The CDs, DVDs and Blue-rays section includes a Burning Bar touch screen computer where customers can look up prices and music as well as burn accompaniment tracks for singing at church.

A custom-made bookshelf against the center wall is the focal point of the store, displaying all the Bibles and Bible commentaries. Lighthouse Christian Supply offers a number of translations including Spanish language Bibles.

The store will also carry Catholic Bibles, rosaries and communion items such as candles and photo frames. "We want to reach as many people as possible," Story said.

Smoothie King is also established in the back of the store serving a variety of smoothies and flavored coffees and teas as well as snacks such as muffins and pretzels.

With a relaxed seating area designed to feel like home with an electric fire place, couches, chairs and tables, the store will also serve as a community gathering place for home school groups, churches and people who may need someone to talk to.

Unfortunately, Story said, there are still a lot of churches that make people feel uncomfortable about certain personal struggles like drug addiction or pornography.

Story said he and his staff are fully prepared to sit down and counsel anyone in need. "The thing I look forward to the most is seeing how many people we can help," he said.

While Lighthouse Christian Supply is a store and first and foremost must make money, Story said, he’s hoping the store will flourish, and he’ll be able to designate the store’s surplus to a different non-profit or youth group each month.

"I’m not one of those who feels led into the ministry, but I feel there are positions for people like me who want to support those who do," he said.

Lighthouse Christian Supply will open on Saturday with a grand opening on July 12. The grand opening will include discounted prices, giveaways throughout the day and activities for kids.

Lighthouse Christian Supply, located at 670 Elsinger Boulevard, is open Monday - Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information visit www.facebook.com/lighthousechristiansupply.

(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at michelle.corbet@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1215. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)