OfficeMax closing forces students to Osco, Norris for supplies

Breanne Gilpatrick

More students are turning to Norris Bookstore and Osco Drug to get their school and office supplies after an OfficeMax location on Chicago Avenue closed at the end of Winter Quarter.

The OfficeMax PDQ at 1633 Chicago Ave. closed in March, and a sign in the store window refers customers to the OfficeMax on Howard Street. OfficeMax PDQ was a smaller OfficeMax location with copy services and fewer office supplies than a full OfficeMax.

As students discover the closed OfficeMax, some, like Medill freshman Erica Schlaikjer, are going to the Osco Drug at 1630 Sherman Ave., for supplies. Schlaikjer said she went to Osco Tuesday to buy notebooks and an ink cartridge after walking to OfficeMax and finding out it was closed. But she said she doesn’t like going to Osco because it doesn’t carry enough office supplies.

“Osco is good for last-minute stuff,” Schlaikjer said. “But if you’re trying to get your whole supply for a new quarter it’s kind of hard.”

Although another OfficeMax in Evanston is located at 2255 Howard St., Schlaikjer said that won’t help students without cars like her.

“I’m not going to take the El or the bus there just to buy stuff,” she said.

The OfficeMax closing has also sent more students to Norris Bookstore for supplies. Store manager Jerry Jacobson estimated that school supply sales have increased about 20 percent so far this quarter.

But not all students have been affected by the closing of OfficeMaz PDQ. McCormick freshman Prem Gandhi said he didn’t even know the store had left. He said he normally shops at Osco because it is closer to his dorm room in Willard Residential College.

The now-vacant space on Chicago Avenue may not be filled by another office supply store, but finding a buyer for the space shouldn’t be difficult, said Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.

“The problem is there isn’t enough space for businesses in Evanston to open,” Perman said.

The time it takes to fill the vacancy will depend on when the city finds a business looking for that amount of space, he said.

“It’s kind of like a puzzle,” Perman said. “If we’ve got a dozen (vacant) spaces out of 300, it’s like fitting the last pieces together and that sometimes takes some time.”

The decision to close the OfficeMax PDQ was part of a move to integrate OfficeMax into the office products division of Boise Cascade Corporation, headquartered in Boise, Idaho, said Ralph Poore, media relations manager for Boise Cascade.

Boise Cascade acquired OfficeMax in December 2003 and announced that the acquisition would involve closing 40 to 45 OfficeMax locations. The store on Chicago Avenue was originally scheduled to close Jan. 31.

While Poore said he did not know what specific issues led to the closing of the Evanston store, he said location was the key factor for most closings.

Boise Cascade also has plans to open 12 new OfficeMax locations and remodel more than 250 existing stores, Poore said. He added that he did not know if any of those stores would be in the Evanston area.