When Barnes & Noble closed its store across the street from the University of Texas at Austin in spring 2005, it left 60,000 students with no general interest bookstore. To fill the void, the university formed a committee to recruit a new bookstore, and this past month the effort paid off with the opening of Follett's Intellectual Property, a three-way partnership among the Follett Higher Education Group, the University Co-op (which sells the school's textbooks) and the University of Texas.

Gary Shapiro, Follett's v-p of intellectual property, said the project was a great opportunity for the company to get reinvolved in the Austin book scene. The new 6,000-sq.-ft. store stocks 17,000 general interest and selected academic titles (but no textbooks) as well as periodicals, remainders, computers, software and games. It is located a block north of the previous spot held by Barnes & Noble and fills a building that once housed Tower Records. The building is managed by the Co-op.

While Follett already operates more than 100 large trade divisions in some of its college bookstores, such as those at Georgetown, Stanford and Notre Dame, they are folded into the larger operation. And while the company has in the past purchased and repurposed other trade stores, such as the company's 2003 takeover of Atticus Books (later renamed Broad Street Books) near Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the opening of Intellectual Property marks the company's first purpose-built freestanding trade store. It is also one of only half a dozen or so of 700-plus stores managed by Follett to use the company's name in branding, though the Intellectual Property moniker is unique to Austin.

Manager Cliff Stith, who was recruited from the University of Missouri Bookstore, explained that Follett deliberately tried to build a distinct identity for the Austin store. "The thinking was that this campus requires something unique, and the designers tried keep a bit of the 'Austin is weird' vibe that is the city's slogan," said Stith. "There are many pieces in this store that are customized, such as the fixtures and signage, which is hand-lettered on chalkboards and underscores the academic theme." Faculty members were invited to write shelf-talkers for their favorite books.

Events are a key component of Intellectual Property's strategy to make an impact on the community, which would otherwise have to travel more than a mile to BookPeople to attend readings. In an unusual experiment, UT is paying Follett an annual subsidy of $75,000 for the first three years. In return, the bookstore will host events for faculty who publish books, and maintain adequate stock of such oft-neglected items as specialized books in engineering and the social sciences, philosophy tomes and journals. But it's not all serious: the store also hosted a launch party for the Onion newspaper, which recently relocated to Austin from New York. Local authors are also part of the mix.

Special effort has been made to connect with students. Plans call for a new student artist to decorate end caps each month; X-boxes and video games are for sale on an upper mezzanine, and three large units near the cash wrap are dedicated to academic remainders and bargain books. The store even has a loyalty program, offering a free book after 10 are purchased.

While the Austin store is not necessarily a prototype for more trade stores, Shapiro said, "We certainly have the ability to take it to other places." Certain elements of the Texas store are likely to be replicated in a new bookstore Follett is building at Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, Va., Shapiro said. "We really saw this as an opportunity to show what we could do in the trade space," he said. "Our intention is to have a great store, continue to make the investments we need to and to make sure it works."