Follett's to close this spring

CHAMPAIGN — After nearly 75 years in Campustown, Follett's will close the book on its store at Green and Wright streets in May.

Company spokesman Elio DiStaola said the store will close May 29, having served generations of University of Illinois students.

JSM Development is expected to acquire the Follett's building at 627 S. Wright St., C, and turn it into a multi-tenant building for three or four retailers.

DiStaola called the closing "a business decision," noting the value of the property continues to increase.

"Over time, it became clear that it was no longer economically feasible to operate at this location," he said.

The store — once a central source of new and used textbooks on campus — got out of the course-material business a year or so ago.

It now sells Illini apparel, Illini-related gifts, school supplies, small computer peripherals and a small selection of best sellers.

Store manager Alex Paul referred inquiries about the closing to Follett's corporate headquarters in River Grove.

Jill Guth, director of commercial leasing for JSM, said the Follett's building has been on JSM's radar for some time.

"We had actively contacted Follett's corporate on and off for many years," she said. "They approached us, and we were able to work out a deal to purchase the building."

Guth said the building has a total of 21,000 square feet on its lower level, first and second floors. It will need to be modified to accommodate separate retailers, she said.

"There are openings between the first and second floor, and we'll be filling those openings to create separations between retailers," she said.

Once the transaction closes, JSM will own everything on the north side of Green Street between Sixth and Wright streets, with the exception of a portion of Murphy's Pub, Guth said.

Norma Cavanaugh has worked at Follett's for nearly 25 years — to many, a long time, but only a third of the store's run.

When she came to work in 1988, the marketplace was different.

"TIS (Bookstore) wasn't here, and IUB (the Illini Union Bookstore) was in a cubbyhole along Wright Street," Cavanaugh said. "We were known for getting used texts for students so it would be cheaper for them."

When Follett's replaced its store on the northwest corner of Green and Wright with a new building in 1997, Cavanaugh marveled at how big it was going to be.

"Look at all the buildings next to us now," she said, referring to JSM's eight-story Tech Plaza at 616 E. Green St., C.

Cavanaugh, the customer service manager, said she has fond memories of Follett's.

"What I'll miss the most are the students we hired. They usually stayed all four years. I've seen lots go through, and I still keep in touch with many of them," she said.

Cavanaugh estimated that in 1988, Follett's had about 10 full-time employees and 35 to 40 students working in Champaign. Today there are about five full-time employees and nine to 10 student employees.

In many ways, Follett's is a Campustown landmark.

"Everyone is familiar with us being here on this corner," Cavanaugh said.

But that hasn't always been its location. Follett's moved to the current spot in 1962 when it acquired the Co-Op Book Store in the Cunningham Building.

Before that, Follett's was located on the south side of Green Street, at 627 E. Green St., the current site of Zorba's.

Anne Johnston, the dean of Campustown business owners, remembers Follett's operating at both locations.

"It's a shame to see them go," said Johnston, who has operated Campus Florist for more than 71 years.

Follett Corp. — which manages more than 900 college bookstores across the U.S. and Canada and provides wholesale services to 1,600 others — was founded in 1873. The Champaign store dates back to 1938, DiStaola said.

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jdmac44 wrote on March 28, 2013 at 8:03 am

And here I thought the previous building was the original from 1938!  Oh well, it was old enough.

jdmac44 wrote on March 28, 2013 at 9:03 am

Oh and I wonder how sales of clothing and certain other items have gone since the Chief logo was banned from being sold?  I know I haven't cared to buy any merchandise with just Illinois on it.

jlc wrote on March 28, 2013 at 12:03 pm

It's sad how many people are stuck in the past around here.

ronaldo wrote on March 28, 2013 at 3:03 pm

It's sad how a handful of people that don't appreciate the past think their views are somehow superior to others.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on March 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm
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Nope, it's not pathetic at all that grown men and women still get worked up over a mascot that was discontinued nearly a decade ago.

Nice Davis wrote on April 01, 2013 at 11:04 am

Next time I go to a game I'll look for the "true fans" such as yourself. Presumably you'll be the ones wearing old sweatstained t-shirts with holes in the armpits. Carry on your proud fight for justice, brave warrior!

welive wrote on March 28, 2013 at 9:03 am

I think there should be some type of law against one company owning half of Campus they owe the whole block.Lets just look and see what all JSM owns and manages In the Campus market.They can set the rent at any amount.Taking robbery to a whole new level.

 

C in Champaign wrote on April 02, 2013 at 5:04 am

Absolutely. What we need is a City Council with the courage to enact an Equalization of Opportunity ordinance to make sure no property owners have greater opportunity for success than the others. We could actually make them sign over some of their property to the less successful property management companies to keep everything equal. Ayn Rand is spinning in her grave...

SaintClarence27 wrote on April 03, 2013 at 2:04 pm

One can only hope. 

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on March 28, 2013 at 11:03 am

Ths monopolization is the same as in downtown Champaign;  one or two people own all the property which destroys the unique diversity that may have existed prior to the gentrification and drives out what is considered not to fit into the "Mold" of the landowners viewpoint/vision.  This trend will eventually turn everything back into a sterile ghostown.  The now-departed city manager deserves a feather in his hat for monopolizing the parking in both places and making everything unaccessible to all levels of consumers except himself and his parking enforcement staff.  money**greed***money** does not equal sustainability.

george_bailey_1945 wrote on March 28, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Good Riddance! Follett's is run by the snottiest bunch of people to walk the planet.

I am a little tired of the cocentration of campus properties into fewer and fewer hands.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on March 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm
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Excellent points, not hyperbolic at all!   I mean, I don't make a lot of money, and I live, eat, and drink downtown...and I am neither the departing city manager nor a member of his parking enforcement staff...but I guess, for some reason, they grandfathered me in somehow.  I feel special.  I will remember to lament the ghost town of downtown Champaign the next time I see the bars there busy on a weekday night.

Nice Davis wrote on April 01, 2013 at 11:04 am

Sorry that your parking spaces are only mostly taxpayer subsidized instead of entirely so, you whiny mooch. I suppose you and your sense of enititlement would prefer it if campustown parking was provided at no cost to you. Of course, since these parking spaces are highly desirable, there would be very little turnover and retail traffic would suffer. But hey, it's worth it so long as this guy can pass the costs of his parking onto others, right?

And LOL at your predictions that increased commercial activity in downtown or campustown will somehow lead to a bubble bursting and all business fleeing the areas.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on April 02, 2013 at 10:04 am

The increase in commercial activity is from 6-7 pm until 12-2am.  What happened to the rest of a 24-hour day? The parking enforcement/meters, property owners, Champaign City staffers/managers discriminatingly shut it down to the rest of the public; gave all the tax increment money to one or two people, and have put feathers in their own caps claiming this to be their glorious achievement.   You must be a member/proponent of this grand debacle.  No diversity--excess food/liquor--is a formula for non-sustainable disaster.

Local Yocal wrote on March 28, 2013 at 5:03 pm
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Sooooooooo.....who and what have JSM lined up as the two new retailers in that building? It would have to be entities that can afford the astronomical rent for such a succulent piece of real estate and afford the upfront costs of an extreme makeover to the facade of the building,....another Scott Cochrane alcohol joint? .....Maybe in the grand tradition of Wendy's, McDonald's might want to come back?....Starbuck's could move down the street?...how about an Apple computer store?.....an asian restaurant?....a retro Chief Illin-o-Mascot store?...perhaps some upstair office accomodations for fired-but-tenured ex-U of I administrators?....a Freshman 15 Baskin-n-Robbins? An Afterhours, Afterdrinking Taco Bell and Puke Emporium? Maybe another head shop selling synthetic marijuana? The imaginations of the rich can be so intriguing.

The property directly across the street to the south sat vacant for nearly ten years before the bank finally gave it a shot. Hopefully (?) JSM has some ROI already secured....

Sancho Panza wrote on March 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm

It's clear that Follett's hasn't been able to compete as a bookstore with TIS, IUB, and internet based sellers for several years.

While JSM has improved the quality of many retail buildings in campus town area, it's difficult rooting for property monopolization financed by spurious deductions from student's damage deposits.

Nice Davis wrote on April 01, 2013 at 11:04 am

I'd be curious to learn more about this. Do you have anything to back up your claim about spurious deductions, or is it just the word on the street?

SaintClarence27 wrote on April 03, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I know that the Garths (smaller home-rental) never give back a deposit. Ever. Bunch of thieves.

jdmac44 wrote on April 01, 2013 at 8:04 am

@Alabaster - Do you ever express original opinions of your own or do you just attack others?

Bulldogmojo wrote on April 01, 2013 at 4:04 pm

They will probably just drop yet another Apple store in there. Steve jobs' widow needs a lot of money to fuel that $100 Million Yacht he left behind. 

cretis16 wrote on April 02, 2013 at 8:04 am

Stopped buying T shirts and jackets there, when they stopped the CHIEF...no chief, no sale..goodbye!

Bulldogmojo wrote on April 02, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Cretis16... I was trying to reconcile how you can be so outspoken about your pro-life views but if the baby comes out Native American it's ripe for being ojectified on a lunchbox? For someone who claims to be such a Christian you participate in a lot of idolatry ie., pope Worship, chief Worship etc. Just wondering how you square those circles.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on April 03, 2013 at 5:04 pm
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So you're saying they should have risked being sued by the University by continuing to sell Chief memorabilia?

cretis16 wrote on April 03, 2013 at 7:04 am

I;ll become a Florida State fan ...and worship Chief Osceola. Not sure of the connection between Illiniwek and abortion, but I did go to public schools so am limited on my thinking ability.

Bulldogmojo wrote on April 03, 2013 at 8:04 am

Your obvious notions from your various postings putting different values on different humans in different stages of life, would be my point. Have a good time in Florida...

LocalTownie wrote on April 03, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Wow folks, its just an article about a store closing and the plans for the building but yet somehow the comments end up with personal attacks and Chief bashing. Grow up people. Move on.


I'm glad there are plans for the building, hopefully it doesn't sit empty too long and whatever goes in there is successful.

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 03, 2013 at 1:04 pm

"a multi-tenant building with 3, or 4 retailers"