This is the Place

Bookstore and Gift Shop

In July 2021, my wife and I opened an LDS bookstore in Palmyra, New York. The COVID pandemic was ending at that time, and there was no longer an LDS bookstore in Palmyra. (The one that had been there closed during the pandemic.) We rented a space three doors down from the Grandin Press building and named the store: “Latter-Day Messages.” Now, 2 ½ years later, that endeavor has proved successful, and operating the store there has been a gratifying experience. We feel like we are a part of the effort to help those tourists visiting the restoration sites in Palmyra to have memorable and uplifting experiences.

When we opened the Palmyra store, we had no idea we would later operate an LDS bookstore near the Washington D. C. Temple. But in early 2023, we learned that Scott Burke would close his This is the Place bookstore on Kensington Parkway, near the Washington, D. C. Temple. Like many of you, as a long-time resident of the Washington metropolitan area, I have enjoyed visiting the This is the Place store many times during its 35-year history.

After hearing that Scott was planning to close the store, I contacted and spoke with him several times. The building home to the store for many years had been sold, and the new owner required all of its tenants to leave. Scott had owned This is the Place for 8 years, and during the last five years, he had been an affiliate with Deseret Book such that they controlled and owned the inventory. Scott told me that when he informed Deseret Book of his intent to close the store, Deseret Book declined to continue with an LDS bookstore in the area. Scott and I extensively searched for a new store location near the temple, but the only bookstore, as a part of our continuing mission to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.


This is the Place

Bookstores generally are a dying phenomenon in America. Even large bookstores, like Barnes & Noble, are struggling. LDS bookstores are no exception. For example, LDS bookstores that used to exist in Atlanta, Orlando, and San Antonio have all gone out of business. One of the reasons for the disappearance of these stores is the advent of online purchasing.

Despite the disappearance of many LDS bookstores, many people still like to have them around. But their survival depends upon a few things: (1) local support, (2) the bookstores being operated effectively, and (3) the bookstores having their own website operations. As the new owners of This is the Place, we have greatly increased the types and number of items we carry during the last six months. We do not have the space to take everything you would find in a Deseret Book store in Utah. But we have a fine collection of great LDS books, pictures, jewelry, art, games, puzzles, etc. And for most books or other items that we don’t have, we can order almost all of them, and we are happy to do that if you are willing to work with us.

In the early 1950s, I was in the Washington Ward when President Russell Nelson was then Second Counselor in the diocese, and later when Apostle Ezra Taft Benson was Secretary of Agriculture. Forty years later, I received a letter from President Benson, calling me to be bishop of the Frederick Maryland Ward. After graduating from the BYU Law School in 1978, our family settled in Frederick, Maryland, where we continue to reside and practice law. I also served as an elected official for eight years.

Eight of our children and eight (and counting) of our grandchildren have served full-time missions for the Church. I served a mission to France (1970-72), and Terry and I served a full-time mission in the Texas Fort Worth Mission (2017-18). But while we don’t carry everything you might find in a Utah Deseret Book store, we also carry many things that they do not carry. For example, we have a section in our Maryland store of books by and about local people. This includes the various books I have published. Many of these books are not readily available anywhere else. In addition, we also have a modest Used Book section in each of our stores that carries many of the classics that continue to be excellent resources for gospel scholars. For example, our used books include Life Everlasting (by Dwayne Crowther), Mormon Doctrine (by Bruce R. McConkie), and Jesus the Christ and Articles of Faith (by James E. Talmage).

We are Paul and Terry Smith. We are the new owners of the This is the Place bookstore. Terry is from Georgia; I’m from Maryland. We have twelve children. I have practiced law in Maryland for over 40 years, and we now intend to use our experience to help. This is the place to continue to provide great LDS books, art, jewelry, souvenirs, and gift items to the saints in this area. We are committed to providing excellent service, including being readily accessible by phone, by email, and by a good website. If you cannot get the service you need by calling our stores, you are welcome to call me directly at (301) 762-0033 or at [email protected].

Our family has deep roots in Washington,

D. C. area. During World War I, my Rust grandparents lived in Washington, D. C., and attended church with Senator Reed Smoot. My parents, Ruth and Russel Smith, moved here permanently in 1941. My dad was a bishop, a stake president, and a temple sealer. He co-chaired the Missionary Committee in connection with the first Washington Temple Open House in 1974.

We regard our current work as the most suitable site we could find as the one where the store now is, at 3750 University Boulevard West, Suite 201, Kensington. This location has about 800 square feet of floor space, for which we pay $1,600/month rent.

Due to online marketing, making a traditional LDS bookstore survive economically is extremely difficult. We have had to adopt a business model that limits the size of our store and the number of products we carry. We know this means that our customers often will not find the items they seek in our stores. But we will continually strive to carry as many popular items as possible, and we hope you will be patient when we don’t have an item you are seeking.

Our relationship with Deseret Book

We are not a Deseret Book bookstore. We order our books, art, and gift items from over two dozen suppliers, of which Deseret Book is our largest supplier. We purchase most of the items we get from Deseret Book at wholesale prices. But Deseret Book will not sell us some of their products wholesale. Those products are designated as “Deseret Book Exclusives,” and these are usually popular items. If we carry those products, we must pay the full retail price, sales tax, and shipping. This means that we have to charge more than you would pay to get those items directly from Deseret Book.

As some of you may know, bookstore owners who have franchise agreements with Deseret Book can only carry books that Deseret Book approves by contract. From my own experience, I asked several such franchise owners (in Dallas, Houston, Columbia, and Kensington) if they would carry my two books, I Will Send My Messenger and The Prophet Joseph Smith—Restoration Issues, but their agreements with Deseret Book prevented them from taking them. Nevertheless, I got a few independent bookstore owners to carry my books in Palmyra, Nauvoo, and Far West.

Now that we own the bookstores in Palmyra and Kensington, we have been able to sell my books along with other LDS books. This has been a gratifying accomplishment for us.