Hearthside Books retains local ownership

The Hearthside Books stores in Nugget Mall & downtown Juneau have been purchased by Brenda Weaver of Juneau.

The Hearthside Books stores in Nugget Mall & downtown Juneau have been purchased by Brenda Weaver of Juneau. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

Juneau’s Hearthside Books has been sold to a local teacher.

Brenda Weaver purchased the bookstore from co-owners Debbie Reifenstein and Susan Hickey. They announced the sale on Wednesday.

Reifenstein and Hickey opened the store in 1975 in Merchant’s Wharf downtown then moved to the corner of Franklin and Front streets. A short time later, they opened the Nugget Mall store.

“We both had been teachers and we resigned from teaching to get into business,” Reifenstein says.

The new owner is doing the same. Weaver worked in a bookstore for a dozen years before she went into teaching. Now she’s going back to the book business.

For the past 18 years, Weaver has been a teacher at Riverbend Elementary School. During all her years as an educator, she’s been involved with statewide and local literacy programs.

She will take over both the downtown and Nugget Mall stores, and says she will retain the current staff, because Hickey and Reifenstein have done a good job of hiring.

“I am dependent on them,” she says. “I’ve gotten to know them pretty well in the last couple of months and I totally want to keep all of them.”

Hearthside-local ownedWeaver says she’s not planning changes in the stores until she’s more familiar with the operation.

“It will remain the same size and grow slowly. There will be increased inventory by the end of the year and we’re hoping to have a couple of grand openings, one at each location, later on in the year,” she says.

Hickey and Reifenstein decided to retire last year. The company has been on the market for about 15 months.

Reifenstein says it was important to sell the store to a local owner, because an outside company would not know the Juneau market.

Susan and I just feel so indebted to the community for supporting us for 38 and a-half years. Juneau is a wonderful place to have a bookstore,” she says. “People are just real well-read here. Some of our sales reps are surprised at the market in Juneau.

Reifenstein and Hickey say they’ll help with the transition then consider themselves retired.

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