“Wow, Bloomingdale’s has come to Binghamton!” That comment — amid similar ones — was overheard the day the Barnes & Noble at Binghamton University bookstore opened its doors after a considerable revamp.
“We were looking to transform the bookstore into more of a destination,” explains store manager Amanda Konopa. “We want students to say, ‘I’m going to hang out at the bookstore’ or ‘Meet me at the bookstore.’“
Part of that plan included new, soft seating in the store and high-top tables just outside its first-floor entrance, conveniently outfitted with power outlets. “This way, students power up their laptops or iPhones while having lunch or studying,” she says.”The goal is to provide an opportunity for them to see some of the new merchandise we’re carrying, which, hopefully, will translate into additional sales.”
The bookstore’s overhaul was done in conjunction with a large-scale renovation of the school’s University Union, which includes a career-development center, tutoring center, food courts, other student services, and the bookstore. On the day of the Union’s grand reopening, Konopa and the bookstore team were joined by Barnes & Noble College representatives Mike Christensen, project manager for design and construction; Territory Vice-President Ann Fraley; and Regional Manager Debbie Parker for a soft-opening of their own. As students got a first look at the completed store — which had remained open for business during construction — they got an opportunity to take a tour of the vastly improved space and admire the many upgrades.
One surprise for stylish students: a self-service Clinique counter, complete with cosmetics and skin care products. “While there are more than 700 Barnes & Noble College bookstores, we’re one of only 27 to have a Clinique counter,” explains Konopa. “And it’s getting a lot of interest from our students.” A new table and chairs have also found a home near the Clinique counter, an area too small for a product display, but too sizeable to leave bare. According to employee reports, it’s a spot parents often are happy to discover while their children shop the store.
Major changes were also made on the second floor, which houses textbooks and a buy-back window. Before the bookstore’s renovation, books were arranged by college — there are six at the university — and then alphabetically by title and course number. This complicated setup was challenging for new students or employees who weren’t certain under which college the course fell. Now, books are alphabetized by department, which offers a much simpler solution. “It’s an easier system for workers and customers alike,” says student bookseller Kristen Cargill, a junior who participates in the bookstore’s manager and training program. “It’s much easier to find the books you need.”
The second floor’s buyback window also received a facelift, with colored LED lights and a pearl-finish backdrop, which reflects a color-washed glow. The LED light system can shine various colors, such as pink for Valentine’s Day or green on Fridays in a show of Bearcats pride (the university’s colors are green and white).
That show of Binghamton University spirit — particularly in the use of the school’s logo — was a conscious decision on the part of the strategic design team. “We used the athletic logo as a full-sized mural at our entrance, chrome lettering outside and inside the store, and large letters spelling ‘Binghamton’ inside the display window,” explains Konopa. “We all feel very proud to be part of the Binghamton community and this university.”
Before the transformation, the empty window space on the second floor provided a ho-hum view of rows of textbooks and shelving. Now, a 25-foot glass case provides ample space for a chic window display. Mannequins clad in school emblematic apparel showcase the bookstore’s offerings while demonstrating Binghamton pride. “On Valentine’s Day, students from the Binghamton Kickline served as live mannequins,” remembers Konopa. “They were wearing school apparel and winter merchandise that we carry in the store — it’s cold up here! — and they were blowing kisses from the window. Lots of students came by to take a look.
“We hope to do more of that,” she adds. “It’s a lot of fun and definitely brings more and more students into our store.” Distinctly a destination.