WKU Store first to open in Downing Student Union

The WKU Store opened Wednesday, Aug. 14 in Downing Student Union.

Joanna Williams

As the dust from construction is swept up for students arriving on campus this week, a new store is finally opening. 

The WKU Store, which had temporarily moved to Garrett Conference Center for a year while the Downing Student Union was under construction, opened for the first time Wednesday morning.

Shawna Turner, director of the WKU Store, said the store opened 8 a.m., and is the first space to open to the public in the Phase One of the remodeled former Downing University Center.

“We’re hoping to really be able to serve the campus more than we ever had before,” she said. “We know this building is the hub.”

Turner said students had been trickling in throughout the day to buy books. She said the store has been publicizing the opening through social media, which the WKU Store plans to use throughout the year to boost attendance.

The store is considerably bigger than the one that used to be housed in the second floor of the old DUC – and has a number of new additions. 

Those additions include its first technology center.

Jim Sears, assistant director of operations at the WKU Store, said they are working with Apple and Dell where students can buy products from those retailers. The store will also sell Nike merchandise, which it hasn’t done in the past. Russell Athletic wear will continue to be sold as the official retailer for WKU athletic merchandise, however. The store also has a new line of “100 percent made in America products,” Sears said.

“We’re kind of serving a new side of the community,” he said.

Sears said in the past the WKU Store appealed to people who were interested in athletic wear, now the they are looking to appeal to nontraditional students with more “White Squirrel” products, which he said has always been in demand.

The white squirrel is a reference to the albino squirrels on WKU’s campus. The store has capitalized on the popularity of the white squirrels as they frequently appear on t-shirts designed by the WKU Store.

Aside from new merchandise, the store has a new textbook rental service, which Sears said existed in Garrett, but many people didn’t know about.

Those in charge of the opening also hope to profit off the excitement over the upcoming football season, WKU’s new coach, new uniforms and a the season-opening game against the University of Kentucky on Aug. 31.

In fact, the catch phrase the store has been using — and which will appear in marketing ads — is “New Season, New Coach, New Store”

The new WKU Store is just steps from Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Sears said the proximity helps the store even more when the season arrives, since customers will not have to go far to buy merchandise for the game.

“Hopefully we can piggyback off each other, we with athletics and athletics with us,” he said.

John Osborne, vice-president for Campus Services and Facilities, said that the opening on Wednesday is considered a “soft opening” and the official one will be Tuesday, Aug. 20. The store also plans to do something special for Parents and Family Weekend, which is Sept. 20-22.  

When asked about the excitement for the store, Turner said that it has been a long time coming for those who have been with the store for a while.

“Me, personally, I’ve been looking forward for to this for 13 years,” she said. “I’ve been here 13 and a half years and I’ve had been looking forward to a new store since I was here.”