Longtime textbook shop closes doors
Published: Friday, March 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07
As of Saturday, an Aggieland staple since 1930 will no longer have its doors open to sell T-shirts and textbooks. This is not an ill befalling Loupot’s Bookstore or “Old Army Lou,” but part of a corporate bankruptcy reorganization plan.
On June 27, NBC Acquisition Corp. filed for Chapter 11 protection as it plans to restructure the national chain of college textbook stores. Nebraska Book Co., referred to as Neebo, is a subsidiary of NBC Acquisition. A hearing for its second amended plan of reorganization is set for April 13.
“This is an important step in our process,” Barry Major, NBC Acquisition president, said in a statement. “Our off-campus stores have faced tremendous competition over the past year. Our financial performance as a whole missed our target due to the performance of our off-campus stores.”
By Saturday, the three Loupot’s stores, all off campus, will be closed. One of the Tradition’s Bookstore locations, which also uses Neebo as textbook supplier, closed earlier this year. The other two Tradition’s locations will remain open through the remainder of the semester, but the future remains unclear for both locations.
Neebo indicated previously that 39 locations will close nationwide.
Major also said revenue declines have been severe in off-campus stores, which have lost more than $3 million cumulatively this year.
For many Aggies, the closing of Loupot’s hits close to home. Established on Northgate circa 1930 by Judson Loupot, the store sold textbooks, Corps of Cadet uniforms, miscellaneous items — even lunches at one point — for almost 80 years.
Loupot, who studied agricultural economics at A&M, opened the store when he had to leave the Class of 1932 at A&M to support his family. Loupot enlisted the freshmen in the Corps outfit to help build the original store, and ran it himself until his sudden death in 1995. Until 2010, the store was family owned and operated.
Ann Loupot Daughety, daughter of Judson Loupot, sold the store to Nebraska Book Co. in 2010. Prior to this, she ran the store with her partner, Loupot’s longtime bookman Shri Parachure, for 13 years after buying out her brother in 1997.
“I felt this loss two years ago when we sold,” Daughety said. “That is when we closed in my mind. That’s when we quit operating the way we did, and that’s when I mourned. We were mom and pop — all about Aggie tradition and customer service. We took that to heart, and it meant a great deal to us. We were not prepared to compete online.”
Daughety said that after the fall rush in 2010, she realized it was time to sell and called Neebo soon thereafter.
Local textbook storeowners are grappling with this dramatic shift in the College Station textbook market due to Neebo downsizing.
“We are evaluating all our options. We want to continue to give students the best choices, prices and service we can,” said vice president and co-owner of Textbook Solutions Kevin Tracy, Class of 2000. “But we don’t want to go the way of Nebraska and overextend.”
Textbook Solutions, located near the Eastgate entrance to campus, is currently looking at new ways to be more efficient and prepare to meet an increased student demand in August.
“As of now, I don’t see us opening another bookstore in town,” Tracy said. “But the unfortunate problem is in August, students are going to experience longer wait times because there will be fewer places for them to buy their books. The question is, how can we alleviate that?”
President and co-owner of Textbook Solutions Brian Williams, Class of 2001, said his philosophy is to have only one location at a given university to avoid higher costs. Williams said the idea is to set up the single location with the main focus on books and a staff large enough to help students to get through quickly.
“The main message is, we are still here,” Williams said. “Some students think they need to turn to e-books and iPads. That is not the case. Apple can’t get content from the Pearson’s, Cengages, and McGraw Hill’s of the world.”
Williams said higher operational efficiency, improving systems and processes and getting students to go to the website first will help his store serve more costumers.
“Getting the customer to do the most work to save them the most time is the idea,” Brian said. “IKEA and Which-Wich do the same sort of thing. You are doing the thinking … before you get to the cashier.”
John Raney, local State Representative and owner of Texas Aggieland Bookstore, said his store does not have an established plan of action in response to the Neebo store closings.