Start the music and prepare the swan song. The end of an era is near: Rainy Day Books are for sale.
But founder and chairman Vivien Jennings and her husband Roger Doeren are at peace with the decision to bring Fairway’s independent bookstore to market, Jennings’ son Geoffrey Jennings said.
The couple want to retire. Plus, they have a newborn grandchild and a great-grandchild to read to.
Over 47 years, Rainy Day Books has earned a reputation as a go-to destination for writers and book lovers. Local and independent scribes were regularly featured there. Book clubs met there every month to discuss their latest reading.
Will it remain a community gathering place under new ownership? We hope.
“The authors know that Kansas City is not just flyover country,” Geoffrey Jennings said Monday.
Stephen King once played acoustic guitar at an event sponsored by Rainy Day Books. People in the audience cheered enthusiastically as King tried his hand at — and vocal cords — at Van Morrison’s “Gloria.”
“I can’t rock, but I can write,” the internationally acclaimed author told the crowd during a question-and-answer session for his book “Revival.”
Years ago, an overflowing crowd poured into the aisles of the sanctuary of Unity Temple on the Country Club Plaza to hear ‘Into Thin Air’ author Jon Krakauer talk about his harrowing experience during the ascent of Mount Everest.
The building was at capacity. The fire marshal and two deputies were on standby. The event ended with a standing ovation for Krakauer, a mountaineer who survived a failed attempt to climb Everest.
Since 2019, Jennings has had public conversations with other award-winning and notable authors such as Kwame Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Salman Rushdie.
In 2019, former Kansas City Star sports columnist Joe Posnanski came out to help promote “’69 Chiefs: a Team, a Season, and the Birth of Modern Kansas City” with its writer Michael MacCambridge. Former chefs Willie Lanier and Jan Stenerud and renowned gardener George Toma were also present.
This month, Candice Millard, former National Geographic writer and editor, is set to appear on Rainy Day. Kansas City is Millard’s home. It won’t be his first visit to space, but it may be his last under Jennings and his family.
Organizing Q&A sessions and book readings and signings with authors takes considerable effort. The work has taken its toll on Jennings, 77, and Doeren, 70, who both deserve retirement.
To prepare for Coates’ 2019 visit, Vivien Jennings spent 12-14 hours researching the former national correspondent’s previous work for The Atlantic to develop a script for a show that ran for an hour, according to her son Geoffrey.
For small businesses like Rainy Day Books, the challenges of bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic are real. Working longer hours with fewer staff is the norm.
“The past two years have been very difficult for us,” Vivien Jennings and Doeren wrote in a joint statement. “We have endured with the support of the community and beyond. In addition, we have reinvested and reinvented our profession. Today, Rainy Day Books thrives on a strong core of customers who believe in the power of books and a growing team of people who value our customers as much as they value books.
Candidates to buy the business will be shortlisted, the couple wrote. At the beginning of July, potential buyers will be contacted.
The new owners will have the opportunity to write new chapters in the Rainy Day Books legacy, according to the family. Investors have every right to run the business as they see fit.
Will they follow Vivien Jennings’ script?