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Faith keeps booksellers going

A second Christian book store opens in Zephyrhills. Both shop owners say God led them to the enterprise.

By ANGELA MILLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000


ZEPHYRHILLS -- For six years, Miller's Leap of Faith has served the public with a vast and unique variety of Christian books, music, novelties and supplies. It has been the one Christian book store in the east Pasco area.

Until now. Three months ago, a new Christian book store called Thee Prophets House opened its doors. The two stores are in Zephyrhills, about nine blocks from each other.

Sue Lynn Miller, owner of Miller's Leap of Faith on Fifth Avenue, said opening her store truly was a leap of faith. She had worked as a secretary for 15 years when the company downsized and let several employees go, including her.

Miller's daughter, Charlynn Bishop, 44, and her daughter Duskie Reynolds, 27, kept encouraging her to open her own shop.

One day Miller, living in Wesley Chapel at that time, saw an advertisement in the paper placed by a book store that had closed. The store was selling book racks and a small numberof books.

She said she had no idea where this was going, but she knew God had a plan for her; so she bought the racks and merchandise, and that started her adventure.

Miller researched the demographics of areas that did not have Christian stores, traveled to other Christian book stores doing research and traveled to the Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville, Tenn., which is now Lifeway Christian Books and Supplies.

"I didn't have a clue what I was doing, but I would hold the verse in Philippians close to my heart that states, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,' " said Miller, 59.

Miller's store offers a selection of more than 200 Christian videos that rent for 99 cents a day. It has a large selection for all denominations of books and cards, supplies for Bible studies, music for all ages and tastes and T-shirts with Christian logos.

The store also has a selection of Bibles and music in Spanish. An old telephone booth is set up with a tape player and headphones for customers to preview the music.

"The best-selling book is the Left Behind series," by authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Miller said.

Rose Haines, a Zephyrhills resident, attends a women's Bible study group at Missions Alliance Church, which uses study materials bought from Miller's store. Haines said she enjoys reading Christian novels.

"People may not read the Bible, but I can give them Christian novels that they will read, that might lead them to the Lord," said Haines, who visits the store frequently.

Shelves are filled with gift ideas and novelty items. Miller said one specialty item that has been selling well is silver-plated, engravable pet-tags that are shaped like angels, bones, hearts, crosses or wings.

Casandra Hecker, 20, said she comes in often to rent videos and purchase music and gifts.

"It is so nice to have this store right in town," Hecker said.

Miller and her store have experienced several trials but she never lost faith -- or her business.

In July 1996, a car ran into the front of the store, almost demolishing the entire front. The store has survived flooding, a roof caving in and a noticeable decrease in business last December when a city project closed the streets downtown, preventing anyone from entering her store through the front door. Miller said her customers pitched in with donations and prayers.

They helped her move temporarily into her neighbor's shop on main street, while repairs were being done at her shop.

Customers told Miller that they wanted to help because they didn't want her to close. Miller said they have met a lot of great people and made many good friends; some will even pray right in the store with her.

"When I worried I would turn to prayer: "Lord if you intend for us to stay in business, we will.' I still get excited when we have busy days. I never take it for granted," said Miller.

Nick Randazzo, 30, said he and his mother Jackie Newby, opened Thee Prophets on Gall Boulevard after listening to the Lord and prophetic messages from evangelistic preachers and friends.

"The Lord told me if I would just do it he would provide," Randazzo said.

He previously owned a pool supply store in Carrollwood, which to his amazement sold without his even trying. This, he said, was another confirmation to open his new business.

The Bible verse in Deuteronomy 18:15-18 helped Randazzo choose the name of the store and Thee Prophet refers to Jesus.

The focus of inventory in the store is Bibles of all denominations, study Bibles and a selection for the Jewish faith. There is also a selection for pastors and children.

"I learned that through the many road blocks of opening the store, prayer and binding Satan's attacks helped me not worry. I try to teach this to others. I feel that this is a community of God's people," Randazzo said.

-- Angela Miller covers Religion news in Pasco county, she can be reached by calling (352) 521-5757, ext. 29. Her e-mail address is angela@sptimes.com.

For information

Miller's Leap of Faith Christian Books and Gifts is at 38430 Fifth Ave. The phone number is (813) 782-5939. Charlynn Bishop is the manager, and Duskie Reynolds is the assistant.

Thee Prophets House is at 5530 Gall Blvd., next to the Chowder House Restaurant. The phone number is (813) 779-3308. Nick Randazzo is the owner, and Jackie Newby is the manager.

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