August 9, 2007 - ONLINE UNIVERSITIES ARE IN the business of building Web sites, not actual buildings. But that didn't stop Grantham University ( www.grantham.edu), a virtual IHE that serves about 10,000 students, from opening a 13,000-square-foot physical bookstore last May in Kansas City, Mo., where the university is headquartered. Housing more than 18,000 textbooks as well as Grantham accessories and apparel, "it's the equivalent of a college bookstore," says Joe McGrath, executive vice president of Grantham. But there is one big difference- this bookstore was not designed for students to use in-person.
"It was really designed as a book distribution center," McGrath says. Its location is key. "It's only about 10 minutes away from the university's Kansas City home base so if it's necessary to have a book delivered there, it's very convenient."
McGrath said this was a much-needed facility. "We had a bookstore in our original home base of Louisiana, but a tidal surge from the lake put it under eight feet of water," he says. As a result, the university lost close to half of a million dollars worth of books, McGrath says.
"We wanted to find a place to rebuild it that would be impervious to floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes," McGrath says. The bookstore's new location in Kansas City's SubTropolis, the world's largest underground complex that's home to more than 50 businesses and hosts a 10k race in the winter, seems to be a perfect fit. "Opening a bookstore 40 feet underground in an old limestone quarry has been quite an adventure," McGrath says.