Christian Retailing

Baker holds special event to celebrate 75 years of publishing, retailing Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:16 AM America/New_York

Recently renovated store hosted anniversary occasion serving as ‘mile marker toward our vision of a world living in Christ’

RichBaker-VIPBaker Publishing Group celebrated 75 years in business with an invitation-only event April 24 at its prime Baker Book House retail location, which underwent a $1.6 million renovation starting in 2012.

Managed by Sue Smith, the historic store in Grand Rapids, Mich., was the site of the Easter-week reception that drew guests including “representatives from our companion publishers Zondervan and Kregel along with many other business associates, ministers, agents, authors, media, current and retired employees, friends, family, shirt-tail relatives and bewildered bookstore customers,” Dwight Baker, president of Baker Publishing Group, told Christian Retailing. “We celebrate this occasion as a mile marker toward our vision of a world living in Christ, where the message of God’s love is provided to all who seek it.”

A harpist offered background music, while guests visited and dined on appetizers and desserts during the two-hour afternoon event.

Smith, who recently became chairperson of CBA, was “very pleased” with the turnout.

“We had a grand time overall,” she said. “I feel that it’s important to celebrate in this way because these landmarks are important. It’s a vital time to stop and be thankful for where we’ve been, both for Herman’s vision and God’s provision all these years.” 

Baker also spoke to the gathering, commending Karen Steele, manager of conventions, corporate events and corporate publicity at Baker Publishing Group, for planning the reception well in advance.

Christian Retailing presented a special VIP (Visionary Industry Pioneer) award to Richard Baker, who worked at the company full-time for 40 years and served as president from 1987 to 1997 after founder Herman Baker. Presented on behalf of Charisma Media, the award commended him for “building one of America’s greatest publishing companies and blessing the lives of millions.”

After the award presentation, the company’s third-generation president invited guests to pick up a copy of The Baker Book House Story, a book written by Ann Byle, who also was present at the event.

Indicating that writing one’s own company history is “a somewhat self-conscious process,” he joked about telling the story that would be read by authors.

“We were very concerned that it’s hard to make a good story when you have a narrative thread that involves no drama, no romance, no violence, no conflict, and you all know the ending,” he said, citing the difficulty of “keeping you engaged as a reader with a narrative that really doesn’t hold up to other literary expectations—and our solution to that was to make it very thin.” 

The company has annual revenues that run about $50 million with sales up 6% for the fiscal year ending in April. Baker is the third-largest publishing house of Christian titles behind HarperCollins Christian Publishing and Tyndale House Publishers, and is owned by Richard Baker and his four children, Dawn Baker Faasse, Dwight Baker, Dave Baker and Dan Baker.

In the process of acquiring Regal Books’ authors from Gospel Light, Baker’s divisions include Bethany House, Baker Books, Revell, Chosen, Brazos Press and Baker Academic. The company has exclusive rights to God’s Word Translation Bibles and will distribute Cambridge Bibles through 2014.