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A market for Michigan State apparel beyond the university brings unique school spirit

Benjamin Buzzell
A hoodie spells out ‘TUCK STAYIN’ in Spartan Athletic font.

The array of MSU merch is quite broad: from trash cans to T’s. We check out what lurks at the Student Book Store’s merchandise shelves.

The Student Book Store is a long-standing business with fresh and sometimes unusual Michigan State apparel available to the public.

Across any college landscape, school spirit is a present facet for most students and alumni. To accommodate, most campuses have stores on location, selling books and clothing for anyone to represent the university.

Michigan State University holds several of these Spartan Spirit Shops around campus, notably at 1855 place and the MSU International Center. These stores sell a selection of common apparel, however, the market for MSU apparel doesn’t stop at the campus borders.

Brad Ballein, current manager of the Student Book Store, has been working in this business for decades and says the shop tries to carry all a student would want Michigan State related.

“There’s bobbleheads and coasters, pens and pencils, business card holders and diploma frames, I mean we try to carry all things MSU,” he said, “(we) just ordered backscratchers the other day because some people asked for them.”

The Student Book Store is located across the street from the university’s campus. Spanning the length of almost an entire block, the shop opened its doors in 1960 focused on selling textbooks.

Benjamin Buzzell
Toy Trucks painted in green and white sit at eye level to any young shopper.

While this shop blends in with others, it has grown to keep up with the rise in university enrollment. At first glance the store front displays hoodies and shirts with green and white lettering, but that is not all that is available.

Students and alumni stopping by will find the unusual; all spartan themed. Trash bins, underwear, knives, and a large selection of toys keep the wandering eye busy.

According to Ballein, the Student Book Store listens to the market to try and stay ahead of the demand. He said the store follows university athletics, Greek life and clubs to provide the necessary items.

“We just try to have things that kids want,” he said. “We employ a lot of young students so we try to listen to them and cater to that age-range.”

A closer look inside reveals a store split into three sections. School supplies and textbooks to the left, jerseys and clothing in the middle, and checkout services to the right. The space in between is filled with the variety of knick-knacks.

Ballein says Jerseys are a popular sale at the Student Book Store. Students can currently benefit from name, image, and likeness rights such as the sale of the student’s jerseys and designs. Ballein says his store would like to sell NIL apparel but face challenges with Nike.

Benjamin Buzzell
Spartan styled underwear is stocked next to a common quarter zip.

This currently prevents the store from selling player specific items, but popular university coaches are available. Signed images of basketball coach Tom Izzo celebrating alongside apparel celebrating football coach Mel Tucker are frequent.

The Student Book Store has a reputation for providing apparel to any customer who wants it according to Ballein. This indicates a history of selling MSU apparel to high profile members of the community.

“Coaches come and shop here, I mean the pro-athletes come and shop here. Which is kinda fun you know,” he said. “Eric Snow was in one day, I’m like ‘that guy thinks he’s gonna sneak in here and I’m not gonna see him!’”

For Ballein and his staff, university athletics provide a chance to interact with the community. The store is not far from campus events which can put the shop in the middle of the excitement.

“In the fall we have the drumline performing out front before the home football games so it’s that kind of fun stuff. We try to be a fun place to shop and go hangout and be at, so to speak.”

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