Located in the heart of downtown Juneau, Rainy Retreat Bookstore has been run by couple Don and Toni Birdseye. But as of June 15, the store has changed hands.
Don and Toni had been running the Rainy Retreat bookstore, since the November of 2001 after Toni had noticed an ad in a book reviews classified section while living in Texas. Don had dreams of retiring in Alaska while Toni’s view was focused directly on owning a bookstore.
“It’s been a wonderful adventure. It’s connected us to downtown and to the people who come in the store and self-select. They’re already readers. We buy most of our books from the locals who are very well-read,” Toni said while sitting on a high wooden stool in Rainy Retreat. “I always looked at the process of looking to get the right person with the right book with a social value and as a good thing. That’s the high point. You have a person and you introduce them to a book that you know that they’re going to love. Not only did you make a sale, but you did a good thing too.”
Although good memories have been made at Rainy Retreat the Birdseyes felt it was time to, as they called it, “pass on the baton.”
The Birdseye couple will remain in Juneau and are looking forward to focusing their efforts on personal activities like fixing their house, putting more time into the causes they support and, of course, visiting their local bookstores.
“It’s retirement 2.0,” Don said.
Expectations were high for potential new baton bearers, and Tori Weaver, Alexei Painter and the couples’ dog Doby fit the bill. On June 15 the change of ownership was official. Toni said that, “We’ve spent a long time waiting to get the right couple.”
Weaver, originally from Georgia, and Painter, a born and raised Juneauite, both have their own ideas as to why owning a bookstore was the right choice to make.
“I’d been working for Hearthside for three years and I’m ready to try it on my own,” Weaver said. “Also, I have a degree in English and I never wanted to be a teacher.”
Fellow owner Painter said: “There’s an idea generally that print media is dying and everyone will just get their books from Amazon. But the truth is, independent bookstores are actually doing better and are getting more sales than online sources. And it’s because people want a connection with other people and the books they are buying. Juneau has a history of supporting local businesses… We’re part of that legacy and we plan to help strengthen that even more over time. Juneau is a special place because of our community.”
Moving forward, the couple plans to put in the effort that will make them more of a presence in the community.
“We’re not changing the look of it, the stacks are going to stay lazy and overfilled. But the front will be changed up as soon as possible,” Weaver said. Opening up the front of the shop will allow for music venues to take place. Their first event is planned for July’s First Friday at 5 p.m. Performing at Rainy Retreat that day will be Rob Cohen, a locally famous jazz pianist followed by the “Flustered Cluckers,” a four-person band that specializes in blues music; Painter is a member.
The couple has already started a Twitter, Instagram and a Facebook page for Rainy Retreat. Another development to the store will include an updated website that will also open up the option of selling rare books.
“That’s exactly what the store needed. We took it a long way from where it started but it needed the new generation. More energy,” Toni said.
There is a lot to owning a bookstore.
“It’s a lot of different little things because everything is individual when it comes to books. People’s tastes in books are very subjective. So knowing what people want, that comes with time,” Weaver said.
Weaver and Painter invite the community to come to Rainy Retreat, browse the store and visit their mutt-of-a-mutt, Doby who is deaf and can normally be found napping in the ‘Mystery’ section of the store.
“He would love to ignore them, in the most friendly way possibly,” Weaver said.
“Don and I wanted to thank the community of Juneau, the local businesses of Juneau who have helped us with information and support, and our suppliers,” Toni said. “It has been an honor to be a part of this community. We are looking forward to seeing what will happen to the bookstore and what these two lovely people will do.”