Fairway Kansas Rainy Day Books store is on the market


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The Kansas City literary scene wouldn't be the same without Vivien Jennings.

The Kansas City literary scene wouldn’t be the same without Vivien Jennings.

Give entrance to the music and prepare the swan song. The end of an era is coming: rainy day books It is on sale.

But founder and president Vivien Jennings and her 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. Plus, they have a newborn grandson and a young great-grandson to read to.

Over a span of 47 years, Rainy Day Books has earned a reputation as a must-see destination for writers and book lovers. Local and freelance scribes have been featured there regularly. Book clubs met there monthly to discuss their latest reading.

Will it still be a community gathering place under the new ownership? We hope so.

“The authors know that Kansas City is not 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 cheered enthusiastically when King tried his hand — and vocal chords — on Van Morrison’s “Gloria.”

“I can’t rock, but I can write,” the internationally renowned author told the crowd during a question-and-answer session about his book “Revival.”

Years ago, overflowing crowds overflowed the halls of sanctuary at Unity Temple on the Plaza to hear “Into Thin Air” author Jon Krakauer speak about his harrowing experience climbing Mount Everest.

The building was full. The fire chief 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 been in public conversations with other noted and award-winning authors, including Kwame Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Salman Rushdie.

In 2019, former Kansas City Star sports columnist Joe Posnanski helped promote “’69 Chiefs: a Team, a Season, and the Birth of Modern Kansas City” with his writer Michael MacCambridge. Also in attendance were former bosses Willie Lanier and Jan Stenerud and famed outfielder George Toma.

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

Organizing question-and-answer sessions, book readings, and signings with authors requires considerable effort. The work has taken its toll on Jennings, 77, and Doeren, 70, both of whom clearly deserve retirement.

To prepare for Coates’ visit in 2019, Jennings spent 12 to 14 hours researching the former Atlantic national correspondent’s previous work to develop a script for an hour-long show, according to his son Geoffrey.

For small businesses like Rainy Day Books, the challenges of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic are real. Working longer hours with fewer staff is the norm.

“The last two years have been very challenging for us,” Jennings and Doeren wrote in a joint statement. “We endure with the support of the community and beyond. In addition, we reinvest and reinvent our business. Today, Rainy Day Books is thriving thanks to a strong 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 buy the business will be evaluated, the couple wrote. In early July, potential buyers will be contacted.

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

Will they follow the script that Vivien Jennings has written?

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

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