LifeWay Christian Stores is expanding with four locations. The new stores, which will open by the end of June, bring the chain's total number of storefronts to 174.

Since Family Christian Stores went out of business, LifeWay—which was Family Christian's direct competitor—has cautiously expanded. Each of the four new locations will be in spaces previously occupied by Family Christian stores (which announced the closure of its 240 locations in February).

“We looked at all of the Family Stores' markets to determine which areas it would make sense for LifeWay to expand its presence,” said Cossy Pachares, v-p of LifeWay Christian Stores, who added that the disappearance of the Family Christian stores has “left a void in many communities.”

Similar to Family Christian Stores, LifeWay carries a range of religious products, including Bibles, Bible studies, Christian living books and fiction, children’s products, and Christian music and movies. The chain is known, though, for having strict policies about its inventory, and has made headlines for refusing to carry certain titles. For example, Jen Hatmaker’s books were pulled from the company's stores after she voiced support of LGBTQ relationships last year.

Despite its inventory policies and the shrinking of the Christian retail market at large, LifeWay has been able to endure, in part, because of its relationship with parent company LifeWay Christian Resources, as well as its publishing imprint, B&H. That relationship, Pachares explained, allows the chain to maintain a unique position in the marketplace. “Because a portion of what we sell is what we produce at LifeWay, it gives us a different economic model than most other [bookstores],” he said.

Pachares is hoping to expand LifeWay even further, seeing the closure of the Family Christian locations as an opportunity. However, he feels branching out can only happen with the express support of his customer base. “Individuals and churches must realize that if they value having physical stores in their communities that are aligned with their beliefs, they must support them,” he said.