Borders plugs up spending hole in DeKalb

By Tyler Vincent

The floor is covered with opened and unopened boxes, packing peanuts, books waiting to be placed and sides of cardboard boxes that have been converted into organizers for different sections of books with tape. About 10 employees are attempting to put in the last items in the children’s section.

In the music section, about 10 people are working to place thousands of CDs into holding cases. Yet in the midst of this apparent chaos, order is emerging. Isles of shelves, divided into different subjects, already are filling up with books.

“I tell people if they don’t expect to sleep much then we should be fine,” said John Podulka, general manager of Borders in DeKalb. “I say that with a smile, of course.”

Podulka, who has worked within the Borders organization for seven years, just finished a stint at the Borders store in Geneva. He and a staff of about 40 people have been working almost 12 hours a day, six days a week since Halloween to prepare the 22,000 square foot store for its opening at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The store has received the majority of its products, Podulka said. It’s a little smaller than the average Borders store, but Podulka said that his store has somewhat compensated for this by installing taller bookshelves.

The store, located in Northland Plaza at 2520 Sycamore Road, will consist of sections for books, music, videos and a cafe. About 40 people will work at the store with 10 to 15 employees consisting of NIU and Kishwaukee students. It will contain about 100,000 different book titles, some 60,000 CDs and numerous video selections.

Podulka said the store will have a soft opening, meaning that it will simply open with little fanfare, with the grand opening occurring in the spring.

“Being in a college town presents exciting opportunities with professors and students doing research,” Podulka said. “I’m very excited. Every time I mention what I do, people’s eyes light up and they get a smile on their face.”

Borders’ opening comes just before the holiday season start and at a time when the city is hoping to repair a sizable leak in the amount of DeKalb community dollars that are being spent at larger stores in Rockford and the western suburbs.

Paul Rasmussen, DeKalb director of community development, said Borders will be one of many stores coming into the community that will plug up the hole.

“The city as a whole, in almost every category, except lumber, there is leakage,” he said. “Borders is just one of the first stores in stopping that leakage. It should be a pretty significant impact.”

The leakage that Rasmussen refers to is the amount of consumer dollars in a given community that goes toward stores in another community. Using information from state sales tax figures, a community such as DeKalb can determine an average as to how much money should and is being spent per person in the city.

Rasmussen said the state average for money spent within a community on apparel items is about $384 per person, per year. In DeKalb, the average amount spent per person on apparel is between $74 and $75.

“Where’s the other $300 going?” Rasmussen said, adding that a similar gulf exists in electronics. “It’s going to Rockford and the suburbs. Books is clearly a category that we want to address.”