Highlander, textbooks move to Lampert

By Kalie Caetano

The Highlander will merge with the college textbook store and be relocated this fall from the basement of the Campus Center to a more heavily trafficked slice of sidewalk real estate on Snelling. The store’s new location is on the first level of the Lampert building, which, after extensive renovation, welcomed Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books this spring. The Highlander is projected to open up shop across the hall from Keillor’s bookstore by November and be operational in time for textbook buy-back season. When renovation in Lampert repurposed space on the south side of the building for Common Good Books, renovations of the entire first floor created the opportunity for the college to pursue another retail venture on the north side. The administration voted to use the space to consolidate The Highlander with the textbook store. “[We hope] to improve the visibility and product mix in the store,” said President Brian Rosenberg. “The visible location on Snelling also gives us an opportunity to offer products that might appeal to people in the neighborhood.” Visibility would give Macalester a more noticeable place in the neighborhood. It would promote greater interaction between the community and campus. “It’s another billboard that says ‘we’re here,’” said Douglas Rosenberg, Director of Budget and Institutional Services.

Hoping to ride on the coattails of other prominent retail neighbors, the new Snelling location offers significantly more curbside exposure than the Highlander’s previous address in the Campus Center basement. According to a June traffic report from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, upwards of 31,000 cars are estimated to drive along the Snelling corridor everyday, a far cry from “the same 1,300 students checking their SPO,” Rosenberg said.

The store’s new location on the streetscape will make it “way more visible,” said CFO David Wheaton. It will also increase accessibility with more convenient parking. But there is concern that greater visibility to non-students may not be lucrative: not everyone in the neighborhood pines for a Macalester sweatshirt.

“It is definitely greater visibility for those driving by, but those driving by are not [Macalester’s] customer base,” said Michael McAlister ’13. Kate Rochat ’13 said the move might take away from the student customer base. “All those little tangential trips you might get from people checking their SPO,” she said, “You’re not going to have anymore.”

In addition to Mac-branded lanyards, apparel and coffee mugs the store will also become students’ destination for textbooks. Prior to 2004, independent bookseller Ruminator stocked and sold Macalester’s textbooks. After Ruminator’s close, the textbook store was relocated to the second floor of Lampert, a “temporary space going on 10 years,” Douglas Rosenberg said.

Not since the close of Ruminator in 2004 has the college had access to a ground-level, wheelchair-accessible bookstore.

“We’ve always had an interest in giving our students a true college bookstore experience,” Wheaton said. It is common for colleges to have one destination for both textbooks and spiritwear. Ruminator’s unanticipated close left the school with a bifurcated college store straddling Snelling, with textbooks lying to the east and spiritwear to the west. Follet Higher Education Group – an external managing service and bookstore provider – will manage the consolidated retail venture. Follet has previously partnered with Stanford, Georgetown and Notre Dame Universities and manages more than 930 bookstores nationwide. The decision to outsource the store’s management emerged from a desire to create greater retail opportunities and gain access to resources through Follet.

“They bring us a lot more knowledge about retail merchandising in general,” Wheaton said. In addition to on site management, Follet will also revamp the Highlander’s website to create a more user-friendly interface.

Administrative officials are not certain that student employment via the Highlander will remain an option under Follet’s management. Meanwhile, adult staff working in the textbook and Highlander stores have been invited to “explore opportunities with Follet,” Douglas Rosenberg said.

The relocation of the Highlander will create a vacancy in the basement of the Campus Center, precipitating another one of the college’s goals in moving the store: increasing student space on campus by expanding the student lounge.

“The first and most important [goal] is to free up space in the basement of the Campus Center for student use,” President Rosenberg said. “Plans for the development of that space will be finalized over the next few weeks, but we expect it to provide additional dining and social options for students.”

Leading that project is a combined student and staff ad hoc committee of which Cindy Haarstad, Director of the Campus Center, is a member. The space, she says, is an “evolving” concept, still in the planning stages, being “designed with students in mind.”

The committee’s tentative vision responds to feedback from student focus groups aimed at understanding what students feel is missing on campus. Though the final concept for the space is still a moving target, ideas for the new student space include more gaming equipment, particularly video games, a snack bar, a coffee vendor and possible alcohol sales.

Contracting with Pope Architects, current blueprints envision maximizing square footage to create a versatile space that can serve as both a student hub and a venue for student expression.

The Highlander where it stands today will close for construction after Family Fest this October. The new store is scheduled to open at the beginning of November, while the newly expanded student lounge will be in use by the beginning of spring semester. refresh –>