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World's oldest theological bookstore in Stillwater fighting to stay open

The owner of the store had a rough 2017, and he's trying to fight past it.

The owner of an independent bookstore in Stillwater is hoping a fundraiser will generate enough money to help him keep from shuttering the doors. 

The owner of Loome Theological Booksellers, Chris Hagen, says financial troubles caused when he unexpectedly was forced to move the store's location late last year, coupled with debt from the premature birth of he and his wife's seventh child, have tied his hands. 

The bookstore first opened at The Old Swedish Church in Stillwater in the 1970s after theology professor Thomas Loome gathered thousands of books from libraries, monasteries and seminaries from all over North America and England. Loome retired in 2008 and sold the business to Hagen, who in 2012 moved the store and his family – both of which were growing – to a farm in the Stillwater area. 

But 2017 brought with it unexpected complications. 

For starters, his wife delivered their seventh child months early, resulting in a lengthy and costly stay in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). At the same time, the owner of the farm they were leasing decided to repurpose his property for himself, forcing the Hagens to look for a new home, for themselves and the store. 

"I don't know how my family and the bookstore made it through 2017," Hagen says. 

They moved to the storefront on Main Street in Stillwater last September, and it's resulted in 10 times the business, going from 100 customers a month to more than 1,000, says Hagen. 

Despite the boom in business, the debt from relocating the store has proved too much to afford. 

"The increased sales have not been enough to overcome the financial aftershocks of getting my family and the bookstore through the storms of 2017," said Hagen. "That's why I need your help now."

Essentially, he's looking to generate $120,000 to pay down his debt. If he can do that, he can keep the storefront in Stillwater. Without it, the store will become mail-order only. 

All money raised will go towards paying down the store's debt, Hagen says. 

As of midday Sunday the fundraiser had generated just under $14,000. 

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