The UConn Co-op is a not-for-profit cooperative dedicated to serving the academic, cultural and social life of the faculty and students of UConn and the surrounding communities. The Co-op offers a vast array of goods and services in all price ranges, understanding that students and faculty want choice. The Co-op supports student organizations, faculty endeavors, cultural events, diversity, the university’s commitment to a sustainable environment, school spirit and a fun experience through the offerings in the store, events, partnerships, outreach and donations. The UConn Co-op is the official bookstore for the University of Connecticut.
The UConn Co-op’s Story
The UConn Co-op was incorporated in January of 1975 and opened April 1 of 1975. Wanting a bookstore that was more responsive to the needs of students than the lease operator that ran the bookstore at that time, the President appointed a task force of faculty and students to make recommendations. They recommended a co-op. By creating a not-for-profit co-operative, they ensured a non-profit bookstore that was owned and governed by students and faculty, in place of the out-of-state for-profit corporation that preceded it.
From the beginning the Co-op was committed to serving students at all UConn campuses. It also committed to keeping textbooks available throughout the semester, unlike its lease predecessor. The Co-op continues today, serving all UConn campuses including Avery Point, Hartford, Stamford, Torrington, Waterbury, UConn Health, the UConn School of Law and the Graduate Business Learning Center as a not for profit co-operative with more than 30,000 active student, faculty and alumni members.
Within a few years of its inception, the Co-op built the flagship store on land leased from UConn in the center of campus. It was immediately a busy campus hub, visited all day by students and faculty. Here, the Co-op celebrated the first men’s national championship game and the women’s basketball team’s rise to national prominence. We hosted many well-known authors such as Ken Kesey, Douglas Adams, Anne Rice and Madeline L’Engle. In addition to authors we brought to campus as our guests, we also supported author visits and lectures hosted by various departments on campus. We computerized our inventory, starting with textbooks and were one of the first college bookstores in the nation to sell computer hardware and software.
It was also during this time that, in 1992 we partnered with the UConn Libraries and began the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair, recognized today throughout the country for its excellence: the top caliber of authors and illustrators it brings in, the outreach to at risk schools, and the opportunity it presents for UConn’s art students to have their work critiqued by a professional working artist and to compete for an award. The Fair benefits the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection. Bestselling children’s author and illustrator Tomie dePaola calls it “the best run book fair.”
In the fall of 2002, the Co-op was moved to a new two-story bookstore attached to the parking garage near Gampel Pavilion to help UConn pay for the garage. Now, instead of owning our building, as we had with the first building, we became a tenant of the University, making monthly bond payments.
Here, we continued to celebrate athletic victories. We expanded our computer sales and repair departments. We added new lines to our UConn insignia department. And we hosted many authors among them best-selling writers Wally Lamb, Jonathan Spence, and Frances Moore Lappé. We also hosted authors on other campuses such Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld of the Innocence Project whom we brought to the School of Law School.
In 2001 the University and the Town of Mansfield formed the Mansfield Downtown Partnership to create a vibrant pedestrian-friendly downtown with shops and housing and cultural attractions similar to such college towns as Northampton and Amherst. The townspeople and UConn made it clear that they wanted a bookstore to anchor the downtown. In answer to this, the UConn Co-op opened The UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center, partnering with the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and Le Petit Marché Café (with Dining Services). Here we have a state of the art black box theater, which we share with the museum. We host many events, including student run poetry slams, readings by well known and faculty authors, and musical performances. Other businesses in Storrs Center, particularly the restaurants, say the events bring business to their establishments. When Oglala Sioux activist and author Eagle Man (Ed McGaa) visited, he called the bookstore the “holiest building in Storrs” because it passes along “the most crucial tool our species possesses.”
Jason Courtmanche, Director of the Connecticut Writing Project told us, “My family loves the Co-op, especially my children. Everyone who works there knows them by name and puts aside books of interest for them. The kids love to read in the children and young adult section, maybe get a snack or even go check out the puppets next door. My wife and I also love the music and the poetry readings and art shows.” As construction on Storrs Center is completed, we look forward to growth.
Plans are now underway to build a UConn Co-op in the new Hartford campus. We are working with the university on these plans and expect to open in 2017.
As an independent, member-owned co-op, the UConn Co-op is deeply committed to meeting your needs. We want to know what you want. Contact us anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org