The Mount Pleasant couple and business owners Jennifer and Riley Justis 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 experiences as elementary teachers and as parents to create an environment that is conducive to learning literature.
âIt was so important for us to focus on books with our own kids, so we’ve always had lots of books in our house,â Riley said.
Riley and Jennifer are both education graduates 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.
âIt has always been a dream of ours to own a bookstore,â said Riley. “And it’s a city 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.
âWe’re going to use the money for community events, we’re going to bring in different writers and illustrators,â Jennifer said. âIt’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 store during local events such as the upcoming Mount Pleasant Christmas Celebration event downtown.
The Justis family hope their store can be more than just a place to buy books, but a place for people to 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 books and feature guest readers.
âWe’re also very engaged with the community, we want to be a gathering place for the downtown core,â Jennifer said. âWe hope we can be a new business that keeps the downtown area alive. “
The Sleepy Dog Books storefront at 120 E. Broadway St. won’t open until Spring 2022. Riley and Jennifer said they aim to bring more literary options to Mount Pleasant than can be found in large chain stores.
Sleepy 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.
âWe can ship books to your home within the same time frame as Amazon or other book suppliers,â Riley said.
Jennifer and Riley’s lazy golden retrievers, Rosie and Cooper, are the inspiration for the Sleepy Dog books. As reading partners, Rosie and Cooper were instrumental in their children’s learning to read. Riley and Jennifer hope Sleepy Dog Books can play a similar role in helping local children improve their reading skills.
âWe have two golden retrievers, a good memory for us as parents is that our kids are going to cuddle up to them and read,â Jennifer said. âIt is 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 readily available to the people of Mount Pleasant.