George Shinn’s Vision for Christian Bookstores

George Shinn’s Vision for Christian Bookstores

George Shinn always had a game plan in mind when he rose from a poor, obscure background to run the nation’s largest chain of business schools, and years later brought the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets to the Queen City in 1988.

Now at age 82, he still has that strategic mindset as he sets his eyes on another goal that he is confident the Lord will enable him to accomplish in the years he has remaining.

Shinn, a native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, recently acquired a premier Christian bookstore in Boone, North Carolina, where he spends some of his time at his High Country home. It was an acquisition that he believes was orchestrated by God’s providential hand.

“I was at my home near Boone when I heard that the Christian bookstore there was possibly up for sale,” Shinn said as he relaxed on the immaculate second floor of Cornerstone Bookstore. “I called the bookstore, and they were kind enough to get me in touch with the owner who has been running the store for 43 years.”

The owners agreed to sell the property and the building to Shinn with the stipulation that Shinn agree to keep it running as a Christian bookstore, to which, of course, he readily consented.

It was all part of his game plan. In Shinn’s visionary stratagem, Cornerstone Bookstore in Boone is just the first of many Christian bookstores that he wants to open across the country.

“Did you know that last year, more than 400 Christian bookstores had to close shop?” the slim and fit Shinn revealed. “And since COVID hit, more than 1,000 Christian-owned bookstores had to cease operating. I’d like to take the model we have here in Boone and expand into every city where those stores were closed and into other areas where they really need them. I think if we can find retired people who love God and want to serve Him and let them operate the stores, and get the community involved, it can be very successful.”

Shinn is, if nothing else, a strong testimony to what perseverance and faith mean.

He graduated last in his senior high school class and worked at a textile mill for three years before enrolling in a local business school without much money. When the little money he had ran out, he talked to the owner, who told Shinn if he swept the floors, dusted the erasers, washed the chalk boards and filled up the vending machines, he would take care of his tuition. Shinn was happy to agree to the terms, but before long he found out the cost of books was almost as much as the tuition. The owner told him if he would come in on Saturdays and mop and clean all the toilets, he would take care of the book costs as well.

One Saturday after his chores, Shinn had cleaned himself up for a date with a girlfriend when two prospective female students knocked on the school’s locked door. They asked him if he worked at the school, and he decided to show them around. He told them how the school had changed his life in the short time he had been there. On Monday, the two young women showed up with a check in hand for tuition and asked for Shinn, thinking he worked in the enrollment section. The directors pulled him out of class, and he went from being a janitor to a student recruiter. Before long, salesman Shinn had enrolled more students than the other full-time recruiters on staff.  By age 23, he was running the school.

Later, after the owner died of a heart attack, Shinn purchased the school and began expanding. Before long, he owned the largest chain of business schools in America, all part of his vision and hard work. After selling the chain for $35 million, he then bought the Charlotte Hornets franchise for $32.5 million in the late 1980s.

In 2010, he sold the NBA franchise for $325 million, and the ever-energetic Shinn is now looking to open first-class Christian bookstores nationwide, a mission he believes God has given him.

“You know I’ve fallen on my face and made some dumb decisions in my life but I do believe the Lord has helped me and stuck with me even so,” Shinn reflected. “I’m not a spring chicken anymore, but I’m convinced I can do this. It’s given me purpose and given me energy for the rest of my days on this earth. I am going to give it my best shot.

“I remember meeting Colonel Sanders years ago when he was in his 70s. He didn’t start Kentucky Fried Chicken until after he was retired and in his 60s. So I know with the Lord’s help, we can see communities across America get behind opening these Christian bookstores and work with local churches and organizations.

“God has blessed me with the resources, and I just have to trust God. I wouldn’t have a thing if it wasn’t for Him.” ©2023 BGEA

Photo: Jacie Smeltzer/©2023 Samaritan’s Purse

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