Story by Lana Sweeten-Shults
Photos by Slaven Gujic
GCU News Bureau
“Aw, look at the onesies!”
Grand Canyon University Resident Assistant Kaylee Abbott took a gander at a section of wall lined with GCU-approved purple baby attire, toddler duds and children-size foam fingers for Havocs-in-the-making while a nearby shopper admired “the cute onesies.”
Abbott, who was looking for something for a friend who soon will have a baby, was among the first shoppers Wednesday morning to be dazzled by the University’s new, very roomy Lope Shop. By noon, the retail store was packed with customers looking for GCU gear to add to their collection. The campus retail store, after three years in a cozy spot on Lopes Way nestled near a dappling of eateries frequented by on-the-go students, made a move over the summer to its new home in the old Fleming Building on the south side of Prescott Field.
The 9,500-square-foot space, in a prominent spot on the well-traveled Promenade, is five times its previous size. It’s a far cry from the small, outsourced campus bookstore that served students before GCU decided to operate a campus retail store itself.
The build was quick – a 12-week span to convert one of the campus’ older buildings, once occupied by classroom spaces, to what it is now.
“They moved fast,” said Andy Dunn, Director of Campus Retail and Licensing. “As soon as we got the OK from the inspectors (earlier this week), we had 40 students here. Within a week, this thing was set.”
As for opening day, Dunn said, “We had a nice steady steam of customers all day. We found a couple of small issues, and we’ve already made adjustments to make operations smoother. I can’t even count the amount of times I heard customers state how great the store looks. It was so fun to watch people’s faces light up as they walked in.”
“I like how huge it is,” said Abbott, who like fellow student leaders has been on campus for a week or more earlier than other students for training. “Every university has a huge bookstore. I’m glad it’s finally happening here.”
Fellow RA Hannah Burkholder, a sophomore nursing student, also was amazed by the size of the new store, an open, light-filled, modern space, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling display windows that beckon passers-by.
“It’s definitely grown, which is awesome,” Burkholder said. “As the campus grows bigger, it’s awesome that it can accommodate more families that come out to the campus.”
Morgan Whittington, a Lope Shop assistant manager, said that with more space the shop is able to offer more to a wider audience throughout the year – baby onesies, for example, or clothing that might appeal to mom, dad or alumni as well as students.
“In that small space, we didn’t have items for mom and dad, grandma and grandpa all the time,” Whittington said. “One of the biggest requests is to have those things all year-round.”
She said another big request was for the Lope Shop to offer college-specific items, such as shirts for the College of Science, Engineering and Technology or the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions.
Whittington is hoping students will notice how much effort the store is putting into carrying not just the kind of in-demand merchandise they might need, such as a cell phone charger, but the brands they like, too.
Dunn said, “Our buyers invited students to sit in on several of their buying meetings with vendors. Our Merchandise Manager, Rachel Byrd, and her team have a really good sense of what’s popular.”
For example, shoppers will see Rainbow sandals and Havaianas, a popular Brazilian brand of flip-flop sandals.
Senior marketing student Taylor Gering definitely noticed the move toward carrying brands students know.
“It’s nice to see brands students actually use,” Gering said.
They’ll see new lines, too, such as Uscape apparel, founded by students at Bucknell University who “were tired of seeing the same college apparel over and over again around campus,” according to the company’s website.
There’s also Gameday Couture.
“It’s very cute stuff – very rah-rah,” Whittington said. “We have a purple and white checkered pea coat coming in. It’s very professional.”
Gameday Couture will occupy some of the racks in the store’s new boutique area, one of several shops within the Lope Shop.
The boutique is where customers will find the popular Burt’s Bees natural personal care products, bath sponges, lipsticks, face masks, makeup by brands such as Almay and E.L.F., and jewelry, such as the faith-based AMen Collection.
The Lope Shop leadership wanted to stock items for staff and faculty, in addition to students, and it’s in the boutique area of sophisticated merchandise where customers might find high-heeled shoes and, nearby, where the store also offers G-shock watches, Spy Optic sunglasses and Every Man Jack Pomade for the men.
“I think there’s so much more stuff for kids and women,” said Jamie Boggs, Deputy Director in Athletics, adding how she noticed that a lot of what she saw is very stylish. “It’s not just T-shirts, but cute women’s clothes and kids’ clothes.”
Other specialty areas to note: the Nike concept shop; the Champion sportswear concept area; and the technology section, where shoppers can find not only chargers but keyboard covers, Happy Plugs earbuds and U speaker, the world’s smallest speaker.
Whittington said before, on Lopes Way, brands were intermingled throughout the store. Here, “the brands are more defined with their own little concept shops.”
Then there are the games shelves, complete with Uno and Apples to Apples; guitar strings and other music supplies; stationery; bows, bowls and other pet items; outdoors merchandise; and of course, Lopes T-shirts, hoodies, notebooks, binders and other school supplies.
A flexible space near the front of the store features a bedroom layout complete with white and purple Legacy bedding.
“It will be ever-changing,” Whittington said of the space, going from bedding at the beginning of the academic year, for example, to a Midnight Madness display or a Christmas display.
Another big change customers will see: No longer can shoppers bring a backpack or purse (except for very small coin purses or clutches) into the store; they must be stowed away in a cubicle area near the front entrance.
What customers might appreciate, beyond all the merchandise, is the look of the place. Beyond the floor-to-ceiling display windows, architects incorporated recycled barn wood inside, such as on the dressing room doors – a much roomier dressing room area than before.
“Kudos to the architects on everything,” Dunn said.
Not that all the GCU old-schoolness went away in the Fleming Hall-turned-Lope Shop.
The big clock on the outside of the building is still there, and so is some of the brickwork – an homage to those early days of the University while incorporating all that is modern and new.
The Lope Shop will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays to Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays (the Team Shop, which focuses on athletic merchandise, remains in GCU Arena).
Representatives from some of the vendors whose merchandise is carried by the shop will be in the store visiting with customers during Welcome Week, and AMen jewelry will conduct a raffle.
All that’s left to do on the build is finish up minor exterior details and just wait for the Welcome Week crowds, when someone is certain to say, “Aw! Look at the onesies!”
Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at email@example.com or at 602-639-7901.