In 1895, when Washington had only officially been a state for six years, the “Territorial University” moved north of Portage Bay and became the University of Washington. Course materials and study supplies were hard to procure at the turn of the century and most of the students’ supplies had to be ordered from the East Coast. After several years of late shipments—textbooks often didn’t arrive until several weeks after the start of the term—a group of pioneering students decided that their growing university community need a better, local option for textbooks and accessories. Thus, University Book Store first opened for business on January 10, 1900, in a cloakroom next to the University President’s office in Denny Hall. The space was humble, at best, but business expanded quickly and continued to outgrow several spaces over two decades until the Book Store moved into a former pool hall on “The Ave” in 1924; and this is where the company’s flagship store still stands.
On the left: University Book Store on the Ave circa 1925. On the right: The Book Store as it looks today.
Today, University Book Store, Inc. is an independent college retailer with five locations around the Puget Sound. In addition to the flagship store on The Ave, there are Book Stores on each UW campus: in the Seattle campus’s Husky Union Building; on south campus in Tacoma; on north campus in Bothell; as well as a small Husky apparel store in downtown Seattle and ubookstore.com.
University Book Store is one of the largest independent bookstores on the West Coast. In addition to course materials and school supplies, the Book Store offers Husky insignia apparel and accessories, new and used books, art and office supplies, gifts and non-insignia fashion apparel, technology products, and cosmetics. There is a coffee shop and café in the flagship store, as well as a bustling author events and lecture series that produces hundreds of event and book signings per year, ranging from former presidents and political figures; New York Times bestselling authors; local artists and writers; UW professors; and YouTube and social media celebrities.
On the left: Duke Ellington performs in the Book Store in 1941. On the right: Excited fans take a photo with Hillary Clinton in 2014.
University Book Store’s mission is to nurture the life of the mind through its products, services, and experiences. The Book Store continues their founders’ original intention to improve its community and take an active interest in ensuring students’ academic success by exploring new ways to resolve the UW community’s challenges and improve services for the campus and general communities. Providing and supplying affordable and accessible course materials at varying price points and delivery options is still, 120 years later, at the crux of the Book Store’s driving philosophy. The Book Store strives to be there for its communities in other ways, too: by providing healthy snack and lunch options; quiet, comfortable spaces to read, study, or meet with groups; local products and unique books and gifts; and events that bring the community together.
University Book Store: It’s a bookstore for you, and “the U.” It’s independent, local, and it’s still in the game – working year over year to adapt its business to the challenges of a rapidly changing retail environment by staying focused on the core needs of its customers. Here’s to another 120 years!
Fun Facts about the Book Store:
- The University Book Store Ave location was originally home to a pool hall and barber shop before the Book Store moved in.
- Over the years, University Book Store has sold records, skis, typewriters, tennis rackets, shoe’s, men’s and women’s wear, luggage cameras, music and instruments, china and glassware—in addition to everything else students need!
- University Book Store used to rent out typewriters for $5 a month or $12.50 for three months.
- University Book Store has hosted thousands of author events and book signing over the years, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Margaret Atwood, Duke Ellington, Allen Ginsberg, Sophia Loren, Gary Larson, Isabel Allende, Bill Clinton, Ginger Rogers, Tony Curtis, Salman Rushdie, Shirley Temple, and many more!
- Between 1930 and 2015, University Book Store issued more than $50 million in customer rebates to the UW campus community. The Pack RewardsTM membership program, which supplies UW customers with 10% savings every day on Husky gear and books, replaced the UW Customer Rebate in 2015.