Incoming Mount Pleasant book store wins $1,000 grant


Riley and Jennifer Justis with their two children. Photo courtesy of Melissa Gustavison.

Mount Pleasant couple and business owners Jennifer and Riley Justis won a $1,000 grant for their incoming local business Sleepy Dog Books.

The Justis family are passionate about helping kids of all ages learn to read, Jennifer and Riley hope to use their experience as elementary school teachers and as parents to create an environment for learning about literature.

“It’s been so important to us to focus on books with our own children so we’ve always had lots of books in our home,” Riley said.

Both Riley and Jennifer graduated from Central Michigan University with degrees in education and have worked as teachers in several elementary schools across the country. The couple has taught in schools in Alaska and Detroit before moving back to Mount Pleasant with their two kids and dogs.

“It’s always been a dream of ours to own a bookstore,” Riley said. “And this is a town without a bookstore.”

Jennifer was announced as the third-place finalist of the 53 Voices pitch challenge, a program in which over 100 female-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 for giving back to the community.”

The doors to Sleepy Dog Books won’t be 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 that their store can be more than just a place to buy books, but a place where people can come to learn about literature. 

After doors open in the spring, Sleepy Dog Books will begin offering group reading sessions to help young readers learn more about books and will feature guest readers. 

“We also are very engaged with the community, we want to be a gathering place for downtown,” Jennifer said. “We’re hoping we can be a new business that keeps the downtown alive.”

The storefront for Sleepy Dog Books at120 E. Broadway St. won’t open until Spring 2022. Riley and Jennifer said they aim to provide more literary options to Mount Pleasant than can be found at bigger 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.

“We can ship books to your home in the same amount of time as Amazon or other book suppliers,” Riley said.

Jennifer and Riley’s own lazy golden retrievers Rosie and Cooper are the inspiration for the Sleepy Dog Books. As reading partners Rosie and Cooper were important parts of helping their kids learn to read. Riley and Jennifer hope Sleepy Dog Books can play a similar role in helping local kids improve their reading skills. 

“We have two golden retrievers, a great memory of ours, as parents, is our kids will snuggle up with them and read,” Jennifer said. “It’s good practice for kids to read out loud and have a reading buddy, to read to.” 

Jennifer and Riley hope that Sleepy Dog Books will help others find a passion for reading that is easily accessible to Mount Pleasant locals.