The couple and Mount Pleasant business owners Jennifer and Riley Justis have won a $1,000 grant for their new local business Sleepy Dog Books.
The Justis family are passionate about helping children of all ages learn to read, Jennifer and Riley hope to use their experience as primary school teachers and as parents to create an environment conducive to learning literature.
“It was so important for us to focus on books with our own children, so we always had lots of books in the house,” Riley said.
Both Riley and Jennifer have degrees in education from Central Michigan University and have worked as teachers in several elementary schools across the country. The couple taught at schools in Alaska and Detroit before returning to Mount Pleasant with their two children and dogs.
“It’s always been a dream of ours to own a bookstore,” Riley said. “And it’s a town without a bookstore.”
Jennifer was announced as the third finalist in the 53 Voices pitch challenge, a program in which more than 100 women-owned businesses competed for a grant sponsored by Fifth Third Bank.
“We’re going to use the money for community events, we’re going to bring in different authors and illustrators,” Jennifer said. “It’s an opportunity to give back to the community.
The doors to Sleepy Dog Books won’t open for several months, but customers will be able to shop at a pop-up location during local events such as the upcoming Mount Pleasant Christmas Celebration event downtown.
The Justis family hopes their store will be more than just a place to buy books, but a place where people can come and learn about literature.
After the doors open in the spring, Sleepy Dog Books will begin offering group reading sessions to help young readers learn more about the books and will feature guest readers.
“We are also very engaged with the community, we want to be a gathering place for downtown,” Jennifer said. “We hope we can be a new business that keeps downtown alive.”
The Sleepy Dog Books storefront at 120 E. Broadway St. won’t open until spring 2022. Riley and Jennifer said they aim to provide more literary options in Mount Pleasant than can be found in large chain stores.
sleeping dog books opened online in September, with all items available for shipping, and will remain open even after the physical storefront is established. Online shopping will be available to customers nationwide.
“We can ship books to your doorstep in the same time frame as Amazon or other book providers,” Riley said.
Rosie and Cooper, Jennifer and Riley’s lazy golden retrievers, are the inspiration for the Sleepy Dog Books. As reading partners, Rosie and Cooper played an important role in teaching their children to read. Riley and Jennifer hope Sleepy Dog Books can play a similar role in helping local children improve their reading skills.
“We have two golden retrievers, a great memory for us, as parents, our children will cuddle up to them and read,” Jennifer said. “It’s good practice for children to read aloud and have a reading buddy to read to.”
Jennifer and Riley hope Sleepy Dog Books will help others find a passion for reading that is easily accessible to Mount Pleasant residents.