Tech Center to close for Bookstore renovations

By Molly Walsh, Campus Reporter

Kevin Tiongoson
The Tech Center closes its doors June 1 after Apple ended the partnership with the college but all technical support and retail services will be available for students at the Bookstore after renovations this summer.

The college’s Tech Center will permanently close June 1, and the Bookstore will undergo renovations this summer to expand its technical support and retail services for students.

The Bookstore, 624 S. Michigan Ave., will operate as Columbia  students’ main source for technological support, according to an April 17 collegewide email from Senior Vice President of Business Affairs and CFO Jerry Tarrer.

“Upon completion of renovations in fall 2018, services similar to those available at the Tech Center, such as computer products and repairs to computers under warranty, will be offered to students at the Bookstore,” the email said. “This change will enhance the student experience by giving students and parents the opportunity to shop for books, school supplies, gear, and now, computers and accessories, in one location.”

After three years of declining revenue attributed to the college’s lower enrollment, Apple decided to end the collaboration with the college’s Tech Center, according to Tarrer.

“We still want to provide some level of technical service to the students,” Tarrer told The Chronicle April 27. “[They]  will continue to get the discount, but they won’t get it through the tech store that will be in the Bookstore.”

He added that plans for renovations to the interior of the Bookstore, pricing for tech assistance at the new tech desk, and the hours of the tech desk in the newly renovated Bookstore are still being planned.

Tarrer said the renovations are not going to cost the college any money because Follett, the owner of the Bookstore, decided to invest in the space and agreed to merge with the tech center after the college proposed a collaboration earlier in the semester.

Tech Center Manager and Service Technician Luna Luxe said she is disappointed because she will be unemployed as of June 1, along with three student workers who will be unemployed on May 15 due to the closing.

“[There] has been … a decline with enrollment, so most of our store’s revenue was dependent on the orientation season when students would come in with their parents and buy a new computer,” Luxe said.

Between 2016 and 2017, there was a 48 percent decrease in merchandise sales, Luxe said.

“[The Tech Center] has been here for 10 years. Ever since I started full-time, we’ve done a lot of service for the students,” Luxe said. “We’ve had over a thousand instances of removing viruses, repairing computers and just general help. I’m not sure how much the bookstore is going to be able to carry that sort of flame.”

Tarrer said the college is in the process of  looking for other jobs on campus for the soon-to-be unemployed students.

Bookstore Manager Ann Marie Pausha said Tech Center employees will have to apply for a job at the store’s new technology desk if they would like to transfer there, and each employee will be certified by Apple to assist students.

Pausha said the Bookstore will be open throughout the summer. She added that she is excited to see the changes because the Bookstore has not been renovated in eight years.

“I’m excited about this whole thing,” Pausha said. “It’s a positive piece for the school and students and for everybody involved.”