KEVIN BURD Hub Sports Editor
KEARNEY — The Antelope Bookstore is no more, as the Nebraskan Student Union space is being rebranded as the Loper Spirit Shop.
After creating the UNK Online Bookstore with Akademos, students can purchase their textbooks online, and the university will now oversee clothing, gifts, and merchandise in-house.
With full control over operations, the Loper Spirit Shop hopes to provide a wide variety of options for people looking to show off their UNK pride.
“We want to offer the options and different levels of clothing,” said director of business services Michael Christen. “We are an Under Armor campus, so we still want to offer these products and have them available, but there are different price points there…Customers, community members and students will see a wide variety of prices and selection. We really test the market to see where the demand is.
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Previously, Barnes and Noble was responsible for both the textbooks and general merchandise side of the store.
The new textbook provider, Akademos, has a comprehensive marketplace for students, so they can not only see options for their service, but also stores on the web.
“Students can see all the options that exist and are not limited to an Akademos selection,” Christen said. “We’re already seeing a lot of student savings and a lot of positive feedback about this affordability and transparency.”
The transition to the Loper Spirit Shop brought several new challenges, but the team was not without direction. The UN already has in-house operations, so it had an easily accessible source of information.
Maintaining leadership was also key to successfully transitioning and rebranding. Current Principal Len Fangmeyer, who has been at the university for about 20 years, and Deputy Principal Dawn Bickford have brought a lot of expertise to the project.
Because the store will no longer be selling textbooks, it was natural to say goodbye to the Antelope Bookstore name.
“We had the Antelope Bookstore name there, and we kind of wanted to rename it because we had our new UNK online bookstore with Akademos,” Christen said. “We wanted to rename the Loper Spirit Shop to explain a bit more to individuals, customers and community members what the location really has to offer.”
Affordability has been a key word in the transition to the new Loper Spirit Shop, as the university wants students to be able to show off the spirit of the school without feeling like they’re breaking the bank.
“It’s just about meeting the needs of our alumni and students,” Christen said. “We want affordable prices and we want them to be able to show their school pride. While merchandise may sometimes seem like a small part of campus, it’s a big part of our brand image. It’s a big part of our marketing to students, the community and just showing that pride throughout the region.
Coinciding with the store itself, the university is working on other ways to make its wares more accessible to those around the world.
“We are currently working on a website which we hope to have in the near future which will only enhance the reach we can have with our current students, online students and alumni who are spread across the country and in the world.” Christen said. “At many of our sporting events or events that are in the community, we are looking at some options to put ourselves where we have alumni and students ready to show their pride and buy items. We want to meet them where they are and not just be located in one place on campus.
As the full stock of merchandise and clothing continues to pour in, the Loper Spirit Shop will be open when students arrive on campus for the fall 2022 semester.