Keeping the faith in Routt County

No idle hands for Bible bookstore owner

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— Deanna Berry said she knows it could take some time for her El-Shaddai Bible and Bookstore to become commonly known as "the county's only bible bookstore."

But she seems to be willing to stick it out.

"I told my landlady that I want the lease until the Lord comes," Berry said, followed by a laugh. She was sitting in a chair Thursday afternoon in the store front, knitting a pair of black socks one was finished and she was half-way finished with the other.

Berry is easy to find. Between serving customers while working at the bookstore in downtown Oak Creek, she's usually sitting in her chair, in the storefront window, engrossed in a knitting project or doing a counter-cross stitch. There are even a couple of chairs next to hers in the window if someone wants to sit down to chat, or learn about knitting.

"Knitting is spoken here," she said.

In other words, anyone who wants some help on a knitting project, whether it's at her knitting group in Yampa on Tuesday nights or at the book store, Berry is happy to help out.

"We teach them whatever it is they want to learn," Berry said of the knitting group.

Along with being the only Christian bookstore in the county, El-Shaddai is the only yarn store, too, which compliments Berry's hobby.

But hobbies aside, the Bible bookstore is serious business.

El-Shaddai was originally in Steamboat Springs, then it moved to Oak Creek, where it nearly went out of business. Then Deanna and her husband, Jerry, decided to buy the shop.

"When it sold out, we knew the people, so we bought it," Berry said. "We felt like it was needed in the community."

Though they are not south Routt natives, Berry is a northwest Colorado native, having been raised on a ranch in North Park.

Her husband is originally from Arkansas.

"I didn't come from anywhere but from just the mountain," she said.

Going to church was tough living on a 4,000 acre spread, Berry said.

"When you ranch, you don't have much time to do anything else," she said. "And when I (was young), you were either snowed-in in the winter or mudded-in in the fall."

But she remembers first learning about the Lord when a preacher came to her old school house during classes in the summer, which led to her becoming active in church as an adult.

Though the couple was new to the book business when they took over El-Shaddai about nine years ago, they were not new to going out of their way to support the faith.

"Through our married life, we helped build a lot of churches," Berry said. "And if you think building a house is difficult, try building a church."

From Eagle, Rifle and Steamboat to places where they made their homes in Missouri and Arkansas, all of the places Jerry worked as a survey engineer and a rancher, the couple always was willing to help out the church, or help build one if their faith wasn't represented.

In Steamboat, they helped out with the old First Baptist Church on Eighth Street.

After that, without a church to help build, Berry said keeping El-Shaddai, which means "All Mighty God," seemed like the right thing to do not to mention it being the only bible bookstore in the county.

"There is one in Craig, but I don't think people want to drive all the way there for the things they need," Berry said.

The store offers Christian cards, Bibles and theology books.

"Cards are probably our biggest sellers," she said.

But along with the resources for Christians and the yarn business, El-Shaddai also has gifts.

"Not every Christian has to give gifts that are Christian," Berry said.

The store also does photograph matting and framing, has wedding-oriented gifts and Berry sells her counter-cross stitch projects.

With the yarn business, Berry said the cornucopia of items and services offered at El-Shaddai supports "a fairly good

customer base."

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