Sleepy Dog Books: Business blooms with community support


Snow decorates Sleepy Dog Books' sign on Nov. 18

After 15 years in a 'book desert', Mount Pleasant welcomed a new bookstore. Sleepy Dog Books offer a variety of book genres, events and products from locally and woman owned businesses.  

The grand opening of Sleepy Dog Books took place May 6. Booklovers celebrated the opening with a party, live music and over 5,000 books were sold that weekend.

Riley Justis, co-owner of Sleepy Dog Books, said that the business has been going very well and even above of what was expected. 

“People have come out and the community has been very supportive of the store,” Justis said.

In six months of the bookstore operating, 11,000 books were sold. It means over 1,800 books were sold in a month Justis said. 

This November, Sleepy Dog Books won the People’s Choice Award at the Downtown Pitch event from Middle Michigan Development Corporation (MMDC). With such competitors as GreenTree Co-op Market and RedBloom Yoga, Sleepy Dog Books earned the most popular vote and $1,400 for authors events. GreenTree Co-op Market received a Business Vibrancy award ($10,000), and RedBloom Yoga – Community Vibrancy ($5,000). 

Justis said it was very meaningful for him and his wife, Jennifer, to get people’s vote and support. 

History of Sleepy Dog Books

Riley and Jennifer Justis are the bookstore owners. Riley said Jennifer owns the majority of the business and she is the one running it. He said they have one more employee besides them. 

The couple are both Central Michigan University’s graduates in the field of education. 

Riley said they worked as teachers in Alaska after the university. They moved back to Michigan in 2011 and taught on Beaver Island and in Detroit. 

“She (Jennifer) has always wanted to own a business. I’ve always wanted to own a bookstore,” Riley said. “So, we merged the dreams together and decided to open a bookstore.” 

Couple of grants such as previously mentioned People’s Choice Award and Michigan Women Forward grant helped the bookstore open. Michigan Women Forward was the first grant Sleepy Dog Books received. Michigan Women Forward is granted from MMDC. The bookstore got the third place in a competition for Michigan Women Forward.

Riley said that for him and Jennifer the biggest challenge in opening the bookstore was in a business aspect.

“Jenny and I are both teachers,” Riley said. “So, we’re not business people.” 

He said the law and regulations were the hardest because the couple was not familiar with them. He said they received training from a Michigan Women grant on accounting software, tax preparation and other things that Riley said was “a good opportunity for both of us to learn.” 

Book business is also a unique business Riley said. They always have to predict what books people are going to be interested in. Riley said when choosing an assortment for the bookstore, they look out for what people are buying all over the Midwest, what trends and new books are coming.

Christmas on the shelves of Sleepy Dog Book on Nov. 18

Sleepy Dog Books is the only bookstore in Mount Pleasant.

“It definitely made it easier to make the decision to open a business,” Riley said. 

Riley said there is a lack of competition, but also a lack of access to books. Riley refered to Mount Pleasant as a ‘book desert’. 

“It’s something we wanted to bring to the community,” Riley said. “Something we’re working towards growing the amount of books that the community has access to.” 

Riley said he and Jennifer are always very excited when people come to the bookstore.

“Jenny and I are both book lovers,” Riley said. “We love having conversations about books like what our favorites are and why they’re favorites.”

Riley said their dogs, Cooper and Rosie, who were the inspiration for the bookstore’s name, also come to the bookstore during the week to greet the customers. 

“They are fluffy and lazy,” Riley said.

Sleepy Dog Books are pet-friendly, and people can visit with their dogs as well.

What Sleepy Dog Books has to offer

Riley said Sleepy Dog Books offers a little bit of every genre. On the shelves of a bookstore readers can find general fiction, general nonfiction, children’s books, manga, classics, new releases and others.

Riley said Sleepy Dog Books works with publishers and wholesalers (companies that buy and warehouse books from publishers, and a bookstore can buy books from them). Their wholesaler, Ingram, finds the books all over the U.S. and internationally and ships them to the bookstore. For example, from European brances of Penguin or Random House Publishing, Sleepy Dog Books gets European versions of books or European authors Justis said.

Sleepy Dog Books offers some books in French and Spanish. 

If readers don’t see a book on a shelf, they can place a special order online on a Sleepy Dog Books website and have it shipped to them through a local bookstore. 

 New releases, classics, young adult and children’s books are popular among Sleepy Dog Books customers

Besides a wide choice of literature, Sleepy Dog Books hosts products from locally and woman owned businesses on their shelves. Riley said they work with Flint Candle Company, Primitives by Kathy, a watercolor artist from Holland, a couple sign makers private business from DeWitt and others.

“We try to be very purposeful in where we buy from and supporting Michigan businesses, supporting woman (owned businesses) or small businesses to be able to bring those things into Mount Pleasant,” Riley said. 

Riley said people like buying new releases, classics, young adult and children’s books, while biographies weren’t as popular as he thought they would be. Riley said Tik Tok trendy books, for example by Colleen Hoover, are selling well to college students. 

New books by Colleen Hoover, Michelle Obama, Stephen King, Matthew Perry and Rebecca Kuang are now for sale at Sleepy Dog Books. 

Sleepy Dog Books welcomes small, local and woman owned businesses' products into their assortment

Events at Sleepy Dog Books

Sleepy Dog Books has welcomed 12 authors for the authors events. Authors come to launch their new releases, read the books they have and participate in a ‘meet and greet’ parties.

“They do a lot of reading and answer a lot of questions,” Riley said. “It’s been really interesting. We’ve had everything from children’s authors to adult’s authors.” 

Authors like Erin Bartels, “The Girl Who Could Breathe Underwater,” Cindy Schraubens, “This Could Be You”, Bill Meiners, “Though The Odds Be Great or Small” and others were at the events.

Jade Luck is coming to the Sleepy Dog Books with her romantic comedy “Spirit Me Away” at 7 p.m. Nov. 30.

Katie Reid is visiting the bookstore with “A Very Bavarian Christmas” at 7 p.m. Dec. 1. 

Katie Reid is visiting Sleepy Dog Books with “A Very Bavarian Christmas” on Dec., 1 at 7 p.m.  

Sleepy Dog Books also hosts a book club that meets every last Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. There are around 15 regular participants of different ages. This month’s book is “The Diamond Eye” by Kate Quinn. More information is found on their website

Every Saturday morning Sleepy Dog Books does storytimes for children. Jennifer runs the meetings. Participants do crafts, activities and readings. 

Sleepy Dog Books are also working with the Mount Pleasant schools to help them get access to books and order them locally. 

Riley said they have also worked with English, Creative writing and Psychology departments at CMU. Sleepy Dog Books worked with CMU’s English department to help coordinate the Veronica Roth’s event.  

Riley said they are going to have poetry reading with CMU’s Creative writing faculty this winter. 

Sleeping Dog Books also had successful events such as ice-cream social and giveaway events. 

“We’re trying to keep coming in the doors to get to learn that we’re here,” Riley said. 

New release "It starts with us" by Colleen Hoover is already at Sleepy Dog Books on Nov. 18

Community at Sleepy Dog Books

Olivia Schaffer, a bookstore visitor, who grew up in Mount Pleasant said she comes to the Sleepy Dog Books whenever she gets "an itch for a new book”. She usually chooses something from the general fiction. 

“I really appreciate having a bookstore,” Schaffer said. 

She said she loves reading, and when she was younger, her grandma used to take her to the bookstore that was in Mount Pleasant when she was younger. “Since they closed, I’ve just been sad,” Schaffer said. She said going to local bookstores gives her a special feeling. 

CMU students, Lotte Groenendijk, Veerle Van Der Put and Maya Tollenaere, visited Sleepy Dog Books for the first time. 

“It’s (the bookstore) so cute,” Groenendijk said. “I’ve been walking past a couple times and it just looks so cozy.” 

Groenendijk and Van Der Put are exchange students from Netherlands. They are both seniors studying American science. 

In Sleepy Dog Books Groenendijk was looking for children’s books for her classes, and Van Der Put said she was considering reading "I'm glad my mom died" by Jennette McCurdy.

“I love it,” Van Der Put said. “I love bookstores. I really like books.”

Tollenaere is a sophomore at CMU majoring in biology with the ecology conservation. She has lived in Mount Pleasant her entire life and she said she loved Sleepy Dog Books.

“It’s nice,” Tollenaere said. “I like that there is other things than books here too.” 

Tollenaere said she likes used bookstores and buying locally. Tollenaere said she favorite reads are natural focus fiction and nonfiction. 

“The biggest thing is just getting people in the door,” Riley said. “Trying to let people know that downtown is growing.”

Sleepy Dog Books is located at 120 E. Broadway St. Its working hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for Tuesdays and Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and from 12 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. 

Between the covers at Sleepy Dog Books on Nov. 18

Sun shines on "The Song of Achilles" novel on the shelves of Sleepy Dog Books on Nov. 18