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Kansas City's Rainy Day Books has new owners who plan to take it 'forward into this next chapter'

The exterior of a bookstore shows a brick facade with wood trim. People are walking out the front door. The store is called "Rainy Day Books."
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Customers walk out of Rainy Day Books on Thursday afternoon.

A new 16-member ownership group wants to stick with what works and expand the independent bookseller's reach.

Rainy Day Books has a buyer: a new local ownership group of 16 people and counting. This includes the ownership team of Made in KC retail shops. The deal is expected to be completed in November.

"It's a fun group of people that have gotten involved to take Rainy Day Books forward into this next chapter," says Made in KC's Tyler Enders.

Made in KC launched in 2015 and has 10 retail locations across the metro, where it sells Kansas City-made products such as candles, soaps and T-shirts.

On May 2, Rainy Day Books posted a letter on its website announcing the nearly 50-year-old independent bookstore at 2706 W. 53rd St. in Fairway was for sale.

“It is time for someone new to be the face and voice of Rainy Day Books," wrote founder and president Vivien Jennings and her longtime partner and chief operations officer Roger Doeren.

Jennings and Doeren, in their 70s, said they wanted to retire and spend more time with family and friends.

Two elderly people stand inside a bookstore, each is holding a book and they are hugging. Behind and around them are books shelved neatly.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
In May 2022, Vivien Jennings and Roger Doeren posed inside Rainy Day Books, each holding a copy of one of their favorite reads.

The three Made in KC co-owners, Tyler Enders, Keith Bradley and Thomas McIntyre took the idea of buying Rainy Day Books to their advisory board, expecting the six members to suggest they stay focused, or that it wasn’t for them.

But that wasn’t the case.

“There was overwhelming support and encouragement, that we at least look into it further,” Enders says.

As they considered whether they might be a good fit for Rainy Day Books, Enders says, they discovered a lot of overlaps between the two businesses in terms of philosophy and approach to customers and employees.

"And as Geoffrey Jennings, Vivien’s son, would say, you know, it’s a community's wellspring of ideas and it's where people — for all sorts of different reasons and from all sorts of different backgrounds — come to find inspiration, stories, education, et cetera," he says. "So we love the idea of being a part of that.”

The interior of a bookstore shows a woman at the checkout counter talking with an employee. They are surrounded by books on shelves.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
A customer checks out at Rainy Day Books on Thursday afternoon. The Fairway bookstore has been purchased by a collective of the store's fans.

Several members of Made in KC’s advisory group and fans of Rainy Day Books also expressed interest in participating, including businessman and art collector Bill Gautreaux, who recruited members of his book club.

And, Enders says, that blossomed into the current investor/ownership group of 16.

“Although there are a lot of people who are interested in participating, we aren't too worried about it because we don't really see a whole lot that needs to change with Rainy Day Books,” he says. “We love the way it exists today. We love the customer experience.”

Geoffrey Jennings plans to stay on as book buyer and events manager. And Vivien Jennings will continue to host author events, and she and Roger Doeren will visit with customers in the store for, Enders says, "as much time as they're willing to give us."

Right now, Enders says, they're focusing on a smooth transition. But he says there are likely to be slight tweaks in the future, including the possibility of adding more locations.

“We do want to bring more people into the shop, and we do want to extend the hours,” he says. “And hopefully when we invite authors to Kansas City, we can pack out Unity Temple even further and the other venues at which we host.”

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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