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Hearthside Books sells to local teacher

Both shops will remain open

Posted: June 12, 2014 - 11:12pm

After about a year of trying to sell the business, Hearthside Books owners Susan Hickey and Debbie Reifenstein found a taker — former Riverbend Elementary School teacher Brenda Weaver.

Weaver, who taught in Juneau for 18 years and has lived in the city for 20, said the opportunity to purchase two local bookstores was too good to pass up.

“I’m very excited about the purchase of the bookstore,” she said. “I still absolutely have the passion for teaching but in Juneau the opportunity doesn’t come around very often.”

Weaver’s passion for books is long-lived. She worked as a literacy specialist in the Juneau School District and was an adjunct professor of literacy at the University of Alaska Southeast. She also worked years ago in the University of Alaska Fairbanks bookstore.

And, of course, she’s a longtime Hearthside customer. She said she’s passionate about local bookstores.

“There’s an opportunity to come in and browse and get (books) in your hands — check out what’s new, what’s old, some things you might pass up on otherwise,” Weaver said.

Both Hearthside locations — downtown on Front Street and inside the Nugget Mall — will remain open under her leadership, but their names will be changed to Hearthside Books, Etc. to capture the shops’ “great sidelines that are really unique” — greeting cards, toys, and more.

“The bookstore is the main focus, but you’re not channeled into being only one type of store,” Weaver said.

Both Hickey and Reifenstein are also former teachers. They opened Hearthside Books in Merchant’s Wharf in 1975. They meant to go back into teaching after a spell, but “we just fell in love with the book business and just kept going,” Hickey said.

She said she and Reifenstein are relieved to have sold the stores and think Weaver will do a great job. Both Hearthside locations will remain relatively unchanged, Hickey said.

“She’s buying it lock stock and barrel, as you say,” she said.

Both former owners, who have lived in Juneau for 40 years, are “headed toward retirement but not headed out of town,” Hickey said. She wanted to thank the customers who have allowed the stores to stay open, shopping locally instead of ordering books from online retailers.

The former owners are “very happy that we’re going to have two independent bookstores to shop at in Juneau,” Hickey said. “The reason we’ve been able to keep the stores here for 39 years are our longtime customers who continue to shop locally.”

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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