Rainy Day Books owners hope to ‘give the baton’ to someone who loves books as much as they do | KCUR 89.3

Rainy Day Books, the longtime bookstore in Fairway, Kansas, sent a letter to potential buyers on its Web site on May 2nd.

“It’s time for a new person to become the face and voice of Rainy Day Books,” wrote owners Vivien Jennings and Roger Doeren.

The announcement of their plans to sell the store, which opened in 1975, surprised many customers.

Over the decades, the store at 2706 W. 53rd Street has coped with the advent of bookstore chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble and the advent of Amazon and online book purchases, as well as the economic recession and then COVID.

“We had to adapt, and that’s what we’ve been doing all these years,” said Jennings, founder and president. “We’ve always thought, if a door opens, go through it.”

But Jennings, 77, and Doeren, 70, told KCUR’s Up to Date that they would like to spend more time with their family – especially the newest members.

“I have a great-grandson. Roger has a new grandchild. And we realized we were not spending as much time as we would like with family and friends,” she said.

“We realized we just do not have the energy to work all day and then be in Unity Temple until midnight,” she added, referring to the major author events that bookstores often host in Unity.

Jennings said they wanted to begin the process of selling the store, “while we still had the energy to make it work really well, while we could still be available to the new owners for a while.”

Two elderly people are seen up close looking over books standing on top of a bookshelf.  Behind them are hallways lined with books and bookshelves.

Carlos Moreno

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KCUR 89.3

Vivien Jennings and Roger Doeren’s days of looking over the goods at Rainy Day Books are coming to an end.

When Jennings first opened the bookstore, it was in a “small square where the police station and the jail had been. And it was 450 square feet and the rent was $ 200 a month, if you can believe it. And then I could start there.”

She added: “I believed in myself. It was a challenge, but I decided I could.”

First, the focus was on used books. Jennings bought books in Texas and at real estate sales and set up a paperback exchange, traded used books for credit, or paid a small exchange fee.

“People said they loved buying those books from me,” she said, “but could I not also sell them new books?”

And new books, with Jennings in conversation with authors, became the lifeblood of the company. Prior to COVID, Rainy Day Books hosted about 300 author events a year.

“In a newspaper article or a magazine article some years ago,” Jennings recalled, “I said, ‘The book signing itself is over. You have to give people some kind of experience with it.'”

Tickets to an event included a full-price copy of an author’s book. Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen King and Martha Stewart were just a few of the authors.

Jennings estimates they will see about 50,000 people a year.

“We have had such an incredible life. It has nothing to do with money. It had to do with the richness of the experiences we had,” she said. “I have interviewed presidents, I have interviewed astronauts. I’ve had conversations with, you know, leading writers, photographers. “

But as they wrote in the newsletter, when the store reopened in 2021 and “the pace and hospitality of the author events” started again, it required “greater perseverance than we have between the ages of 77 and 70.”

Instead of a “gentle start” in response to the announcement of the sale, about 100 interested parties have so far approached, including potential national and international buyers. Jenning’s son, Geoffrey Jennings, will handle the inquiries until June 30.

In early July, they plan to follow up with potential buyers who are “the most suitable”.

In an ideal scenario, Jennings said, they would “give the baton to a local person – because they would keep that connection to all the local partners.”

She estimates they will be involved by the end of 2022 and into 2023 if need be.

“We are not jumping out. We want to be present for the new owners,” Jennings said. “We created this legacy of literacy, and we want to make sure it continues unabated.”

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