Local Noblesville Bookstore Celebrates 20 Years
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Brenda Milthaler had been working big-box retail since 1973. In the spring of 1998, however, she felt led by the Lord to leave her job and open a Christian bookstore in Noblesville.
“Part of Christian retail is knowing the people and the community,” says Milthaler, who chose the name Living Truth to proclaim that Jesus is living and is the truth. She secured the property in September 1998 and prepared to open in October.
“People told me, ‘You can’t open a store in a month,’” Milthaler recalls. “I said, ‘You can if God’s got a hand in it.’”
Since she first opened, Milthaler has been welcomed by Noblesville residents. In fact, one day early on a customer declared, “You’re a Christian bartender. Bartenders serve and listen, and that’s what you do.”
When Living Truth first opened, there were close to 30 Christian bookstores in the greater Indianapolis area. Today, fewer than half of them remain. Though her store is still in operation, Milthaler has definitely felt the sting of the recession. While she once employed 10 part-time workers, she has essentially run the store by herself with the help of one volunteer since 2008. She considers the work of her ministry.
“I don’t own the store. The Lord does. I just operate it for him,” Milthaler says. “Many people have told me over the years that I need to cut the bleeding, shut it down and get a real job. But that’s not what I hear from God. He always says, ‘Don’t quit.’
“In this business, it’s all about the relationships with the people who come through the door,” Milthaler adds. “I listen to their stories and pray with them. It’s like an extended family. I care about them and they care about me.”
For many of her customers, the Living Truth is a sanctuary. One Christmas season, Milthaler recalls a woman who thanked her for providing an escape from the craziness of the other shopping centers.
“I came in for some peace,” she shared.
Milthaler prays every day that all customers find peace at Living Truth. She also hopes they’ll find the merchandise they seek, whether it be new or used books, bibles, music, jewelry, greeting cards or items for church occasions and important life events. They also do special orders. Even orders that are placed mistakenly make their way into the right hands. For instance, one time Milthaler received a shipment of 50 different styles of bookmarks when she meant to order 12. A woman came in and snatched up a ton of them to take with her on a mission trip to Bangladesh.
“It’s neat to see that even mistakes are a part of God’s plan,” says Milthaler, who enjoys helping customers find the items that will serve them or someone they love — products that encourage, comfort and inspire. She tells the story of a woman who, through the years, has come in to buy dozens of expensive, leather-bound study bibles. Finally, one day Milthaler asked her who the lucky recipients were of these gifts. The woman explained that she runs a bible study at the county jail and that these women have never had anything nice in their lives.
“I want them to know that the word of God is important and special so I give them the nicest bibles I can find,” she explained.
Recently a teenage boy and voracious book lover came into the store and bought $70 worth of used books. Though he only had $40, his mother paid the balance.
“He knows this is an addiction I’ll support,” she said.
Milthaler’s goal is to be there for members of the community, many of whom she has watched grow up before her eyes.
“Moms have brought their children into the store in baby carriers and now some of them are driving,” says Milthaler, who just celebrated Living Truth’s 20-year anniversary in October. “What a blessing.”
Living Truth is located at 17665 Cumberland Rd. in Noblesville. For more information call 317-770-7753 or visit them online at living-truth.com.