Fairway Kansas’ Rainy Day Books store is on the market


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Kansas City’s literary scene won’t be the same without Vivien Jennings.

Cue the music and prepare the swan song. The end of an era is near: Rainy Day Books is for sale.

But founder and president Vivien Jennings and husband Roger Doeren are at peace with the decision to put the independent bookstore in Fairway on the market, said Jennings’ son, Geoffrey Jennings.

The couple wants to retire. Besides, they have a newborn grandchild and infant great-grandchild to read to.

Over a 47-year span, Rainy Day Books built a reputation as a must-stop destination for writers and book lovers. Local and independent scribes have been highlighted there regularly. Book clubs convened there monthly to discuss their latest readings.

Will it remain a community gathering place under new ownership? We hope so.

“Authors know Kansas City isn’t just flyover country,” Jennings’ son said Monday.

Stephen King once played an acoustic guitar at an event sponsored by Rainy Day Books. People in the audience enthusiastically clapped as King tried his hand — and vocal cords — at Van Morrison’s “Gloria.”

“I can’t rock, but I can write,” the internationally known author told the crowd during a Q&A for his book “Revival.”

Years ago, an overflow crowd spilled over into the aisles of the sanctuary at Unity Temple on the Plaza to hear “Into Thin Air” author Jon Krakauer speak of his harrowing experience climbing 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 summit Everest.

Since 2019, Jennings has held 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 to help promote “’69 Chiefs: a Team, a Season, and the Birth of Modern Kansas City” with its writer Michael MacCambridge. Former Chiefs Willie Lanier and Jan Stenerud and famous groundskeeper George Toma were also present.

This month, Candice Millard, a former writer and editor for National Geographic, is scheduled to appear at a Rainy Day event at Unity Temple. Kansas City is home for Millard. It won’t be her first visit to the space, but it may be her last under Jennings and family.

Putting on Q&A sessions and book readings and signings with authors demands considerable effort. The work has taken its toll on Jennings, 77, and Doeren, 70, both of whom are certainly deserving of their retirement.

To prepare for Coates’ 2019 visit, Jennings spent 12 to 14 hours researching the previous work of the former national correspondent for The Atlantic to develop a script for a program that lasted one hour, according to son Geoffrey.

For small businesses such as Rainy Day Books, the challenges of rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic are real. Working more hours with less staff is the norm.

“The past two years were very challenging for us,” Jennings and Doeren wrote in a joint statement. “We endured with support from the community and beyond. In addition, we reinvested and reinvented our business. Today, Rainy Day Books is thriving thanks to a solid core of customers who believe in the power of books, and a growing staff of people who value our customers as much as they value books.”

Candidates to purchase the business will be screened, the couple wrote. In early July, potential buyers will be contacted.

The new owners will have an opportunity to write new chapters in the legacy of Rainy Day Books, the family says. Investors have every right to run the business how they see fit.

Will they follow the script that Vivien Jennings has written?

This story was originally published May 2, 2022 3:37 PM.

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