Renovations underway for “reimagined” campus bookstore

The UAA Campus Bookstore is ordering much more than textbooks for next semester. Along with the thousands of new textbooks that will make their way to the shelves, the bookstore will also be getting… well, a new bookstore.

The bookstore is orchestrating a groundbreaking $1.8 million renovation that will include a new café, lighting, carpet and everything in between. The project is funded through bookstore savings. For the last 20 years the bookstore has been setting aside about two-percent of its annual income for the project.

“[The staff] have been really diligent about saving these funds so they can invest them and make a big splash,” bookstore director Penny Kimball said.

For three decades, the campus bookstore has been a fixture in the Student Union. The overall store design has remained relatively constant. The only major renovation occurred in 2005 with the addition of the second floor and a new entryway.

As the years have gone on, as fads come and go, the store layout has become somewhat convoluted. Kimball said that staff has just been shoving stuff in wherever there was room.

“The current store really doesn’t reflect the products that the bookstore sells,” said Michelle Wells, Marketing Director of UAA’s Business Services.

Snacks hide themselves behind the checkout counter, gifts and cards require a trip to the second floor, and the most expensive products — laptops and tablets — are in a place few people know to look. The new design should fix that confusion.

- Advertisement -

“The [design] team was really diligent in thinking through from start to finish, how a student would interact with the store and tried to make choices based on that,” said Wells. “Everything was kind of made with the students in mind.”

In addition, the new bookstore will be clearing out one side of the store for a full-fledged café complete with an espresso bar, reach-in cooler and all the current snacks and drinks students are accustomed to finding in the bookstore. The café will have seating and tables for at least 30 students, possibly more.

The large-scale project is being worked on in three phases, which allows the store to remain operational through the rest of the semester. This way, students can continue to buy and rent textbooks as usual. The first phase of the project began earlier this month. The front entrance, clothing area and the snack area will be the first part of the bookstore to be renovated. The second and third phases will involve the renovations of much larger swatches of area including the textbook area and second floor. The contractors are working in the evening so that shoppers will not be bothered by the noise. The second floor will have much of the inventory that was on the first floor after the renovations.

Dylan Ebert works at the textbook counter in the bookstore and says he likes what he has seen of the renderings of the store’s new design.

“It looks a lot better than what it is right now,” Ebert said. “I’m pretty excited to see what it turns out to be.”

There is no official completion date for the bookstore renovations yet, but according to Kimball, the contractors have until the end of February to finish.