Adjunct faculty member also shop owner

It all started with one couple who wanted a new challenge in life and then that challenge turned into two successful stores. In 1993, Whitworth University alumni Kris Dinnison and her husband opened Boo Radley’s, a gift and toy shop. The Dinnisons then took on a new task by purchasing a coffee shop from Four Seasons Coffee, one of the original Spokane roasters, and turning it into their own shop called Atticus Coffee and Gifts.

Dinnison has been a part of the Whitworth adjunct faculty on and off for more than 20 years. During that time, she has taught a children’s literature course and worked with the Gifted and Talented Program through the education department.

Dinnison also worked in the Mead School District for 17 years. In 2008, she decided to take a semester leave from teaching.

“I thought I would go back, but I never did,” Dinnison said.

Now Dinnison has three careers. She is a writer working on a young adult realistic contemporary novel and co-owns and manages both Boo Radley’s and Atticus with her husband. She also currently teaches an adolescent literature class for the English department at Whitworth.

“I don’t really have much contact with the other faculty since I am at Whitworth only one night a week, but I have felt very supported by the English department,” Dinnison said.

Not only does she feel support from the English department, but her students also feel supported by her. Rachel Yaun, senior and English major at Whitworth, is a student in Dinnison’s class.

“She encourages us to think about education in a different way by using brain-compatible strategies that keep us engaged,” Yaun said. “I know that every week she’s helping me to become a better teacher.”

Dinnison said that life gets busy and difficult with three different careers, but she keeps a positive outlook on it all.

“I feel lucky that I have the kind of life where there is more stuff I want to do and learn than I have time for,” Dinnison said.

Even though her life is busy, Dinnison said that she would never to go back to teaching full-time again.

“I chose to leave K-12 teaching,”Dinnison said. “I resigned after two years of leave away from the classroom, so I had time to really consider my decision. There are other things I want to do and learn and experience in my life.”

She said some things she would like to experience are to travel, visit friends and family, go back to school to get another degree and write more young adult novels.

Dinnison said she enjoys being a co-owner of two stores, and her favorite aspects of the job are the strong base of regular customers that visit the stores and the employees she works with.

“I feel so lucky to work with the people I do,” Dinnison said.


Atticus Coffee and Gifts

Along with the customers and employees at her shops, Dinnison also said she enjoys using products from local companies. Atticus uses local roasters such as Doma, Roast House, Anvil and Four Seasons for its coffee.

“When you have that many good roasters in town, why go elsewhere?” Dinnison said.

Not only does Atticus use coffee beans from local roasters to make its drinks, it also sells baked goods from a local bakery called Cake.

Dinnison recommends a pairing of an 8-ounce cappuccino and a croissant called a “buttercup” to her customers.

Because it is located in downtown near to the mall, Riverfront Park and Lewis and Clark High School, a wide range of customers come in several times a week for a coffee or pastry.

“It tends to attract a friendly crowd,” said Annie Stillar, customer and program assistant for the English department at Whitworth.

The distinct pictures on the walls and the wide variety of gifts such as dishware, books, wine and coffee beans attract customers to the store section of Atticus.

“The first thing I saw was the [book] pages on the wall,” said customer Sarah Kenney, a junior at Whitworth. “I liked that it was part store and part coffee shop.”

Along with the distinct gift section, the atmosphere of the coffee shop with its different-size tables and variety of drinks and pastries gives Atticus its own personality.

“Atticus’ personality is the best part about it,” Stillar said. “And it’s tempting to think they try too hard to be the ‘it’ place, but it lives up to the title just by being itself: good coffee, good atmosphere and fun stuff everywhere.”

Story by Elise Van Dam Staff Writer

Photo by Michael Locatell

Contact Elise Van Dam at