More Than Books: Michigan State’s Student Book Store On Grand River Looks To Gear Sales For Sports
MSU’s trip to Final Four is brought out fans to the store, looking for swag to support the Spartans.
EAST LANSING, Mich. - With the semester winding down, Michigan State fans went to the Student Book Store on East Grand River, not for the books or supplies - but for Spartans apparel.
A book store does not sound like the place where someone would purchase gear to support the sports teams, but the Student Book Store is a provider for students and fans who need their fix of everything from hoodies and T-shirts to murals, coffee mugs, and replica locker room chairs.
The Student Book Store, popularly known as SBS, was opened in 1960 by the Ballein family. The manager, Brad Ballein, attended high school in East Lansing before going off to Western Michigan University. He would graduate with a degree in Management and Marketing in 1985. Upon graduation, he would return home to East Lansing to take over the family business.
“I worked at the store part-time while I was in high school,” said Ballein. “I always bled green, but Western had the retail business program that I was looking for at the time. When I graduated, I knew that this business was perfect for me.”
MSU sports has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years, and Ballein and the business have been around to experience the growing pains and successes that translated.
“There was a time when we may have only had a few T-shirts here and there,” said Ballein. “But with the growing success of the Spartans sports, we started expanding our business and what we wanted to provide to our customers.”
MSU played in the Final Four in Minneapolis, joining a recent list of big events for sports fans. And it’s a good list: Big Ten Championships in both football and basketball, big bowl wins, a 2015 Final Four appearance, and consistent success against their rivals.
Ballein has been coming up with gear for the fans. One such slogan, is “Play, Beat, Repeat,” a design centered around the Spartan’s three victories over rival, Michigan, in basketball this season.
“This campaign was strictly business,” said Ballein. “With this design, we just wanted the team to know that they had to take care of business against Michigan, especially considering that they’ve seen them and beat them already. The same could be said about the game against Michigan in the tournament. You beat them already, so go beat them again.”
And that they did.
MSU is a powerhouse school for basketball. With 22 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances this season, the success of the basketball team does a lot for the business. When going to SBS, customers can be greeted to “Izzone” t-shirts and “MAC” basketball jerseys, life-sized Sparty bobbleheads, MSU flags, man cave signs, license plates, and many other novelty items to show their true devotion to the school as fans.
“It’s always fun when the team is doing good,” said Ballein. “As a fan, you always want the team to succeed and go far. As a business owner, it’s even more fun to see the fans flood the store buying shirts and jerseys. I think back to how much fun it was to run the store during the 2000 national championship or how great it was when the men and women’s teams both made their 2005 Final Four runs. It’s great seeing the business grow. Even the small things like seeing people wearing the designs that I come up with companies like JanSport. It’s been a blast.”