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On Monday at 2 p.m., Ulrich’s shut its doors for the last time. For 88 years, Ulrich’s was the go-to place for University of Michigan students in need of textbooks, school supplies and campus memorabilia. Located at the corner of South University and East University Avenues, the Ann Arbor small business has a history dating back to 1934. Now, the shelves are vacant, empty cardboard boxes are scattered around the floor and the bookstore’s final customers have taken home the last heavily-discounted remnants of a literary empire.

Usually, at this time of year, students would be frantically dashing in and out of the store all afternoon, snagging a Blue Book for an upcoming midterm exam or scrounging the basement for a copy of the history textbook they hadn’t realized they needed. But this October, the atmosphere at Ulrich’s is somber. Patrons walk aimless laps around the inside of the store, knowing this is the last time they will ever be able to.

The sign on the outside of the door reads, “After 88 years, Ulrich’s will be closing its doors on October 31, 2022 … Go Blue Forever.” 

It is not clear why the store is closing. Ulrich’s representatives, including store manager Tracy Buse, told The Michigan Daily they were unable to comment about the store closing. Ulrich’s has also declined to speak with other local media outlets, including the Detroit Free Press and MLive, about the reason the store has decided not to renew its lease, which ends on Nov. 14, according to MLive.

The Daily spoke to several employees working their last shift at Ulrich’s on Monday and all of them expressed a shared sentiment of sadness and nostalgia. Still, they said they were not allowed to comment on the store’s closing. 

The only public communication from the company about Ulrich’s shutting its doors has been on social media. About five weeks ago, Ulrich’s shared the news in an Instagram post.

“Ulrich’s Bookstore has seen many changes over 88 years and we have helped many young people start their educational journey each and every semester,” the post read. “You’ve all been a part of our Ulrich’s story: past and present.”

Leann Fowler is the vice president of Follett Higher Education, a developer that purchases and operates campus bookstores across the U.S., which acquired Ulrich’s in 2015. Fowler wrote in an email to The Daily that she has been grateful to collaborate with Ulrich’s over the years. 

“Follett is grateful to have been a part of Ulrich’s story, and we’re thankful for the support from the University of Michigan campus community over the past seven years,” Fowler wrote.

Fowler said she was unable to respond to any further questions about the store.

Rackham student Mara Kuhne stopped by Ulrich’s Monday afternoon, becoming one of their last customers after almost nine decades. She said both of her parents were undergraduate students at the University and were disappointed to hear that the space at the corner of South and East University Avenues would soon be empty. Personally, Kuhne said it also makes her upset to see such a historic small business fade away.

“I’m sad,” Kuhne said. “I think small businesses are an important cornerstone of Ann Arbor, and Ulrich’s has been here for so long.”

Before Monday, Ulrich’s was the oldest textbook store in Ann Arbor. Fred Ulrich was the store’s original owner. He opened the shop while working at a grocery store that was next door at the time. Ulrich’s has been renovated a number of times since then, most recently in 2017. Numerous campus bookstores have opened and closed since Ulrich’s opened in 1934, but as of today, the only ones remaining will be the two campus Barnes & Noble locations: one in the Union and the other in Pierpont Commons.

Environment and Sustainability graduate student Lauren Furey also said she visited Ulrich’s on its last day to witness history — and to purchase some discounted school supplies. She said her family would always stop into Ulrich’s when they visited to watch football. It’s odd to think that tradition will die with her final visit Monday, she said.

“I remember my grandpa talking about Ulrich’s and always stopping in on game days,” Furey said. “It’s a definite loss for the community.”

With the windows now dark and the door locked tight, it seems surreal that no one will ever step foot in Ulrich’s again, Kuhne said. Of course, the bookstore’s history and the memories that 88 years of students and community members have of the store will not soon be forgotten. But from the quiet reverence and nostalgia that filled Ulrich’s final customers as they strolled through the barren racks one last time, it’s clear that in some way, Monday marked the end of an era.

“It’s been here for 88 years,” Kuhne said. “I felt like I should see it on its last day.” 

Daily News Editor Roni Kane can be reached at ronikane@umich.edu. Daily Staff Reporter Sejal Patil can be reached at sejpatil@umich.edu.

Daily Staff Reporter Riley Hodder contributed reporting.