Varney’s goes red and blue ...but not here

By Ned Seaton

The owners of the main bookstore serving Kansas State University have bought a bookstore serving the University of Kansas.

That means Varney’s Book Store in Manhattan and the Jayhawk Book Store in Lawrence are both owned by the Levin family, under the banner of University Book Store, Inc. The deal closed this week, according to Jeff Levin, one of the owners of Varney’s. Terms were not disclosed.

He skipped past the obvious gags about a K-State-affiliated outfit taking over a KU organization, saying that the situation of the two bookstores was “identical.” He said both are “private college bookstores serving higher education institutions in the state of Kansas.”

The Jayhawk Book Store, adjacent to the KU campus at 1420 Crescent Road, is one of three in Lawrence. There’s one called the KU bookstore that’s actually on campus, and another called “Beat the Bookstore.”

The Jayhawk Book Store had been owned by the Nebraska Book Company, which Levin said is refocusing on its core business as a book wholesaler. He said that company contacted the Levins about the KU store and others; he said the one in Lawrence was the only one they were interested in. “This is quite a bit to chew,” he said.

Levin said his company doesn’t plan to change the name or much about the store. Levin said there are approximately five full-time employees, and that all of them stayed through the transition. There will be a manager in Lawrence, he said, although Varney’s will offer “a lot of our business office and logistical efficiencies” to help oversee things. There could be some cost reductions on purchasing art and technical supplies and textbooks, he said. He said they were considering adding a coffee shop.

“We think it’s underutilized,” Levin said.

Varney’s is looking to expand with stores in Wichita and Kansas City, and he said they’re exploring the notion of selling both K-State and KU merchandise in those locations. “We’re definitely going to do K-State; we may toy with the idea of doing both.”

The deal for the KU store, coincidentally, came at about the same time Varney’s lost the contract to operate the bookstore at the K-State Student Union. “One door shuts, another door opens,” Levin said.

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