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An Athens bookstore is closing its doors for good

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Follett's bookstore.

An iconic Uptown bookstore will shut its doors this fall amid several other shop closures in the city, removing an option for students in need of textbooks and school supplies.

Follett’s Ohio University Bookstore, located at 63 S. Court St., has sold books, Ohio U gear, school supplies and other merchandise since 1952 to students, residents and visitors. 

It is set to close Nov. 22, directly before Ohio U’s Thanksgiving break, according to The Athens NEWS.

The business has recently been on the decline, with many items in the store going on sale — some selling for 30% or 50% off retail price.

The shop is both the latest victim in a nationwide downsizing of bookstores and a concerning number of recently closed Uptown Athens businesses. These recently closed businesses include Franco’s Pizza Place, Cornwell Jewelers, Lady B’s Fried Chicken and Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza.

Hayley Trachtenberg, an Ohio U alumna and recently hired employee at Follett’s, noticed inconsistencies in the number of customers the bookstore received on a regular basis.

“Since I’ve started, I’ve noticed that we have periods of really slow droughts, and then a bunch of people coming in,” she said. “Certainly because of our sales, and with students coming back we have an influx of customers, but it’s very stagnant.”

Follett’s sells items — such as vinyl records and unique textbooks — other Uptown bookstores don’t, which helped distinguish the business, Trachtenberg said.

Still, she noted other Uptown bookstores take away business from Follett’s though selling products such as specialty book genres.

“Price hikes are different. The amount of services that we host, for example we focus on textbooks and clothing,” Trachtenberg said. “The Little Professor focuses on fiction, and then the bookstore right across the street from us, they focus on textbooks and lots of art supplies. So, all of the bookstores offer something different, but it seems that they’re also offering things that overlaps with our store.”

Nicholas Polsinelli, Ohio U alumnus and owner of the Little Professor Book Center, located next door to Follett’s, expressed concern in the downward trend in bookstores both locally and nationally.

“There has been a significant trend towards a drop in sales, especially for physical print books. College bookstore sales in general, across the country have also been down tremendously over the last, probably decade, at least,” Polsinelli said. “We make significantly less than we did 10 years ago. That would include both the class books that we sell, also the physical books and pretty much everything.”

He added that the declining number of students enrolling at Ohio U has negatively affected the bookstore.

“Ohio U’s enrollment, I’d say, is a huge portion of it,” Polsinelli said. “That’s not just our customer base, but also the more students that are enrolled, the more people will come to our shop.”

The state of the local economy is taking a toll on local businesses. Especially when, in the eyes of Polsinelli, students are not spending as much money.

“How many students there are, huge effect. But then also, students the last few years, they’ve been spending less money in general,” he said. “They’ve been spending less money uptown. You can see this at the stores, the retail fronts, also the bars and the restaurants. Everyone has been down the last couple of years.”

“I really hope that more people get a chance to come on in,” Trachtenberg said, “because we’re pretty great.” 

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