Varney’s announces plans to close

Jon Levin stands with his son Steve Levin in front of Varney's in Aggieville on June 10, 2016. The owners set the date of June 30, 2016 for all Varney's store locations to stop business. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

After 126 years of business, Varney’s Book Store announced it would be closing all locations by June 30.

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Varney's in Aggieville has been at the intersection of Manhattan Avenue and Moro Street since 1890. On June 10, the famous marquee showed a 40 percent off sale marking the end of the store for later that month. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

The news came in a letter written by Varney’s owner Jon Levin and published in the Manhattan Mercury. In the letter, Levin thanked customers and employees for their contributions over the years.

He also addressed the Manhattan community in the letter, which reads, “Manhattan is a great place and we still hold an optimistic view of the region’s future. We see many positive things happening here. As individuals, we look forward to helping with that vision for both Manhattan and K-State.”

According to Jon’s son Steve Levin, Varney’s revenue has declined 80 percent in the last three to four years. He cited the loss of the K-State Union Bookstore contract as a contributing factor, as well as competition from textbook rental and sales from companies like Amazon and Chegg.

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Empty shelves show where the textbook department of Varney's in Aggieville once was. On June 10, 2016, sales of 40 percent off continued to liquidate the remaining products as all Varney's stores were set to close by the end of the month. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

“This is something we’ve kind of been planning for – we saw the writing on the wall,” Steve said. “When I had to talk to people outside of the store and say, ‘This is happening’… to say it out verbally was difficult.”

The store’s closure also brings difficulty to K-State students that were Varney’s customers, such as Sarah Kershner. Kershner, a graduate student in architecture, explained that architecture students are often required to draft plans and construct handmade models for their courses. According to Kershner, the supplies and materials for these projects were typically purchased at Varney’s.

“We shopped there all the time, especially when it was in the Union,” Kershner said. “We didn’t like the way the new store was organized and laid out. The selection wasn’t as good, and the staff seemed less knowledgeable.”

Despite architecture classes being in Seaton Hall, right next to the Union, Kershner said Varney’s was still the place to go, regardless of convenience.

“We would specifically drive down to Varney’s in Aggieville for their selection and layout.”

Kershner said that some architecture supplies are hard to find in other stores.

“Varney’s catered to architects because they were local and connected to K-State,” Kershner said. “They knew what we needed, and they were the only place in town that had certain supplies.”

Now that Varney’s is closing, Kershner said that she doesn’t know where she or her friends will go.

“It’s going to be much more difficult to find supplies. Our choices right now look like they’re (the) Campus Bookstore or Hobby Lobby, and neither of those places stock everything we need.”

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Big signs advertise the storewide sale at Varney's on June 10, 2016, marking the end of the famous Aggieville store. By the end of the month all locations throughout Kansas will close. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)
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People shop in the clothing section of Varney's in Aggieville on June 10, 2016. Sales of 40 percent off enticed customers to come in and buy the remaining product before the well-known store closes for good on June 30. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)
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Varney's K-State Place in the Manhattan Town Center appears closed with no merchandise or products inside on June 14th, 2016. (Sarah Falcon | The Collegian)
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Under the awning of Varney's in Aggieville on June 14, 2016, you can see The Dusty Bookshelf where the Campus Bookstore used to be. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)