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Renovated Coop to Focus on Students, Books

Indranath Neogy--The Tech
The renovated Kendall Square Coop features a more spacious interior and bookshelves straight from Barnes & Nobles Bookstores.

By Eric Sit

The Kendall Square Coop underwent renovations this summer, changing both its facade and its focus. The Coop is transforming itself from a broad-based department store to a leading technical bookstore with merchandise directed towards students, said Martha Piotti, a store manager for the Coop.

"We are trying to position ourselves as the complete bookstore service. Our goal is to be the best technical bookstore," said Allan Powell, a Coop store manager. Previously, the Coop sold a wide variety of merchandise, from books to lingerie.

New store design to improve organization

The Coop began a downsizing process this past March, and demolition and construction began in May. Renovations were done in stages so that the store would not have to close down its various departments like clothing, insignia, and textbooks. Powell estimates that renovations cost under a million dollars.

Wider aisles and more storage for bulk books were installed during the renovation process. Textbooks, professional books, and other books have been separated to ease traffic. Additional registers to handle the long lines of paying customers have been put in place.

Renovations also include better lighting and better layout, and many customers have taken note. The store is "much brighter - more room," said Hubert Vailong '97.

"Before the store seemed very restricted, as if they were funnelling you from one section to another," said Mike Lohse G. "It's now a full, normal bookstore as it should have been. [It] has the Barnes & Noble atmosphere. All they need now is a cafe," he said.

Also featured is a new academic media center. This center will be open for customers to use and test software. It includes workstations, printers, and 26 different programs. Piotti said that the Coop hopes to integrate this center with the Athena Computing Environment sometime in the future.

"We're proud of our renovations at the MITCoop. The feedback we've been getting from students is that they seem to like the change," said Powell. "Customers will tell us if it's the right thing."

Coop will again not offer rebate

As part of a major restructuring, Barnes & Nobles Bookstores announced that they would manage store operations for the Harvard Cooperative Society last year. The Coop has continued to exist as a cooperative.

It also has continued to independently operate its other businesses, including its real estate interests in Harvard Square and mail orders of its merchandise. The Coop hoped that this change of management would improve the quality of service to students and bring profitability to the organization.

As a cooperative, the Coop has traditionally promised that they would give patronage rebates to students on any profits. But for the last two years, the Coop has not given its traditional rebates, aside from a 10 percent textbook rebate offered in the fall of 1994. "I don't foresee any rebate this year," Powell said.

Coop prices to remain stable

Continuing complaints about the Coop's expensive textbook prices have led to increased competition in textbook sales. Most MIT students buy their books from the Coop, but Text Express, Quantum Books, and the Alpha Phi Omega book exchange have provided competitive alternatives, if not exhaustive inventories.

While prices of textbooks at the Coop will remain the same, the cost of other products may change as the store tests different pricing structures. For other books, there is a new pricing policy, with better discounts. For example, there is a 30 percent discount on New York Times bestsellers versus the previous 25 percent discount.