Lemstone Christian Stores, the only franchise operation in the Christian bookstore market, has been acquired by a new investment group. Scott Macdonald, who worked at IBM and has held senior positions in sales, marketing and management at several small companies, is the point person for the new owners, who acquired the trademarks, franchise agreements and operating assets of Lemstone, which, in addition to the stores, include a small publishing unit, Lemstone Books.

Macdonald has been appointed CEO and president of the company, while the company's former owner, Jim Lemon, has been named chairman emeritus. Most of Lemstone's staff and management team will remain in place. Macdonald said he was attracted to Lemstone because "there is a growing demand in our culture for access to Christian products." The company has 40 stores in 24 states and Macdonald expects to rapidly increase the number of outlets with plans to open eight to 15 stores annually. Rusty Bland, v-p of operations, said with the new capital infusion, he sees "no barriers to how large we can become." In addition, Macdonald believes that by adding a stronger financial framework, Lemstone's existing stores will become larger and more profitable. Already, some of Lemstone's more mature stores are moving into larger locations, with a 6,000-square-foot store about to open in Rockford, Ill. Most new stores will likely be in the 2,500—3,500-square-foot range, Bland said.

The product mix at the stores, which includes books, Bibles, music, videos and gifts, is not expected to change. The one-time franchise fee is $30,000 and franchisees pay 4% of monthly sales to headquarters plus a 1% advertising charge that the company uses to develop promotional materials. The company estimates that, depending on size and location, an initial investment to open an outlet ranges between $100,000 and $243,000.