Looking Back: Wallace’s book store
In 2001, the basement of the Oakland Center had a different inhabitant: a bookstore known as Wallace’s.
This bookstore used to be a franchise known by former Kentucky governor Wallace Wilkinson. However, in Feb. of 2001, he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and acknowledge debts of almost $340 million.
Some of these debts were to some pretty interesting creditors. His unreal $340 million debt was partly owed to the founder of Wendy’s, Dave Thomas.
This bookstore, just like the one we have now at Oakland University, would buy back used books from students every year. However, by April of 2001, employees at all locations were told they would not fund this buy back.
In addition, the bookstore would not purchase additional books for summer sessions at the bookstores.
Peggy Cooke, the director of auxiliary services at Oakland at the time, said to The Oakland Post that she was working to make sure Wallace’s didn’t close so student services in the upcoming term would not be disturbed.
One concern many had at the time was the question of graduation caps and gowns. Cooke confirmed that the bookstore had already ordered graduation caps and gowns, and would continue to reorder as needed.
Until 1992, the bookstore was run internally, meaning that Oakland completely owned the book store. This changed in 1992, when operations were outsourced to Barnes and Noble.
Then, in 1999, Wallace’s took over with a five-year contract.
No one knew at the time of publication whether or not Wallace’s was going to buy back books. At the beginning of the semester, there was a “hot” program, which promised to buy back books at half the initial cost.
Cooke told The Post that Oakland intended to support “any promotional promises made by Wallace’s” at the time.
Though there was talk about the possibility of allowing the individual locations to continue operating under bankruptcy protection, the following week, The Post reported that OU had already begun to look for a new bookstore vendor.
Oakland wasn’t alone in this problem with Wallace’s. OU was just one of 63 universities where Wallace’s is the campus bookstore, so the question of book buy backs and graduation attire was a conversation across countless universities.
There was no more information found in The Post archives about whether or not the university continued with the buy back policy, as the issues where this news broke was at the very end of the winter semester.
We ran one summer issue in June, over a month later, and there was no information within it on Wallace’s.
The first issue of the fall semester was on Sept. 11, 2001. Any news unrelated to the tragedy was long forgotten.
However, today the Oakland University Bookstore is a Barnes and Noble, so at the very least, OU returned to its very first franchised book store.