Rainbow Books finds its pot of gold (so to speak)
For book lovers, the approaching end of Trip Taylor Booksellers was bad enough. Downtown Boise’s three bookstores would soon become two.
But as the news of Taylor’s going-out-of-business sale spread this month, a second of the three stores was being offered for sale with little fanfare. Its owners quietly braced to go out of business, too.
As potential buyers eyed their building, the couple who own Rainbow Books, a used bookstore at 1310 W. State St., faced the prospect that their shop could become a tattoo parlor.
“I steeled myself to the idea that the bookstore wasn’t going to go on after me,” said Laurie Deines, who co-owns the store and its building with her husband, Robb. “That was hard.”
Then Bruce and Laura DeLaney came calling.
The DeLaneys own the third store, Rediscovered Books, at 180 N. 8th St. They offered to buy both the business and the building and to keep Rainbow Books going.
“That’s just so wonderful,” Deines said Wednesday, one day before the Deineses and the DeLaneys were scheduled to close the deal. The DeLaneys have been managing the store for the past two weeks. “I don’t have to dismantle the store or have a closing sale. I just had to give them the key.”
Rainbow Books opened in the mid-1970s at 17th and Idaho streets. The Deineses bought the business 28 years ago and moved it four years later to the baby-blue house on State next to DK Donuts. For most of the past 18 years, Laurie Deines ran it with her best friend, employee Lindy Whitmore. When Whitmore became ill recently, Laurie Deines, 63, decided to retire. “It was time,” she said.
The DeLaneys knew the Deineses. Both couples and Taylor sent customers to one another.
The DeLaneys opened Rediscovered in 2006 in the Overland Park Shopping Center near Overland and Cole roads. He was a chemist who worked for Micron Technology, she an elementary-school music teacher in Boise and Meridian. “We thought there was a need in Boise for a classic indie bookstore,” Bruce DeLaney said. The couple moved the store Downtown in 2010.
Taylor sells used, specialized and high-quality, often hard-to-find books. Rainbow sells some similar books and many popular ones. Rediscovered sells mostly new books.
As Taylor struggled, Rainbow puttered along — though in Laurie Deines’ words, it “didn’t make very much money.” She had one full-time employee at the end, a 19-year-old, Julia Rose, who has been there about a year and whom the DeLaneys say they will keep.
Rediscovered, meanwhile, seems to be thriving. It has 14 full- and part-time employees. Bruce DeLaney declined to disclose sales, though he said they have grown every year since the store moved Downtown.
The DeLaneys have fostered a reading community. Bruce DeLaney said the store took part in 250 events last year in the store, at The Cabin literary center, in schools and elsewhere. The couple in 2015 expanded the bookstore into a neighboring space previously occupied by a clothing store.
When Rainbow went on the market, DeLaney said he and his wife thought its closing would be a shame, while its purchase would offer a chance for their own business to evolve.
“It’s been a kind of North End institution: People take their kids there. Boise High kids come over when ‘The Great Gatsby’ gets assigned,” DeLaney said. “It’s a wonderful, friendly little bookstore, like the kind that used to be all over the country.”
Neither DeLaney nor Deines would disclose the sales prices of Rainbow and its building. The two-story building, built in 1956, was offered for $299,900.
The store’s name and basic role as a used-book seller will not change, DeLaney said. He expects to market the store to boost awareness and sales. Its stock of books could evolve as the DeLaneys learn which used books sell and which don’t, he said.
DeLaney said he and his wife decided not to bid for Taylor’s business. “We would love to have been in position to do something with Trip, too, but you can’t do everything,” he said.
For his part, Taylor called the Rainbow sale “the one hopeful sign in Boise, the only ray of light remaining. We’re going to be gone soon. The indications are that Barnes & Noble may be gone.”
Taylor’s store, at 210 N. 10th St., was originally due to be vacated this Saturday, March 31. It has received a short reprieve from Taylor’s landlord.
“I have maybe two to three more weeks,” Taylor said Wednesday. “We won’t be open all that time. ... We need to sell some of the shelves. Some of the books will be donated, and whatever else needs to be done.”
Taylor said he has sold much of his stock of Idaho books to DeLaney.
Rainbow’s rescue comes amid tough times for bookstores all over the Treasure Valley. In 2016, Nampa lost The Book Exchange and Pearson’s Twice Sold Tales. Yesteryear Shoppe, also in Nampa, is in the process of closing.
National chains have struggled with Amazon’s ascent and traditional media’s decline. Borders and Hastings have closed. After a dismal holiday season, Barnes & Noble in February began laying off workers across the country, including several at its Boise store.
But Amazon itself is starting to open brick-and-mortar stores around the country, and it filed an application this month for one at The Village at Meridian. Amazon’s stores are small — a few thousand square feet — compared with more than 35,000 square feet in Barnes & Noble’s store at 1315 N. Milwaukee St.
DeLaney said he shops at Barnes & Noble and roots for its survival. He said he is not thrilled that Amazon may open in Meridian but adds: “I don’t know that it’s going to affect us that much ... It’s not keeping me up at night.”