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One of Lincoln's oldest retail establishments, and a destination for football fans before Husker home games, is closing its doors. 

The University of Nebraska has agreed in principle to buy the Nebraska Bookstore building and real estate at 1300 Q St. for $4.75 million.

Nebraska Bookstore has operated under that name at two different sites since 1937.

The owner, Nebraska Book Co., described what once was the company's flagship store as one that's not performing up to its expectations. 

The university has not said how it will use the property. The Board of Regents will vote on the agreement to buy it on June 12.

Built in 1985, the land and building are assessed at $3.5 million, according to the Lancaster County assessor's website. 

The store, which offers Big Red clothing lines in addition to textbook rentals, will close in mid-July, company officials said. The Lincoln retail operation employs 20.

The company issued a statement that said "(Nebraska Book) regularly reviews the performance of off-campus stores and closes stores that do not indicate the ability to deliver growth. ... The decision to close a store is never an easy one but is important in maintaining the health of our overall operations. This store closing is consistent with our strategy of regularly reviewing all areas of our business to ensure a leading position in the higher education marketplace."

The building, on 13th Street across from the main entrance to UNL's City Campus, the Visitor's Center and the Ross Media Arts Center, contains 56,000 square feet on three floors.

"The property is a strategic acquisition for the university due to its location," the regents' agenda says.

The university already owns the northeast corner of the same block and leases a small building directly behind the Nebraska Bookstore building.

Information included in the regents' agenda said UNL is exploring several options for strategic use of the building, none of which were identified. UNL spokesman Steve Smith confirmed that the competing University Bookstore, owned by Follett Corp., would not move from leased space at the Nebraska Union to the Nebraska Bookstore site. 

Nebraska Book Co. has been making changes in operations since it reorganized and emerged from a structured bankruptcy three years ago. As it reorganized, it closed more than 50 stores it operated, and as of last year, it owned only three, the one in Lincoln, one in Des Moines, Iowa, and one in Mankato, Minnesota.

Nebraska Book Co. still operates more than 200 stores, according to its website. 

Last year it listed one of its two buildings in Lincoln's south industrial park for sale. The company also moved some of its work and jobs to a Chicago suburb last year, leading to some speculation about its future in Lincoln.

Both buildings on South 19th Street remain in Nebraska Book Co.'s possession, according to the assessor's website.  

Chief Financial Officer Jon Otterberg said last year by listing its Lincoln building, Nebraska Book was interested only in unlocking some cash for redeployment.

"We are not leaving Lincoln," he said. "We will always be here ... "

Neebo Inc., beneficial owner of Nebraska Book Co., has been aggressively paying down debt since it emerged from bankruptcy.  

A history of the company written by Lincoln historian Jim McKee shows that Johnny Johnsen, who worked at Long's Campus Book Store at the time, purchased the store in 1937 and renamed it Nebraska Bookstore.  It expanded for almost 40 years.  

In 1973, Johnsen sold Nebraska Book Co. to George Lincoln's Lincoln Industries. It has been sold several times since. Red Long's original Campus Book Store location is now the site of the Lied Center.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7241 or at dpiersol@journalstar.com. Twitter@RichardPiersol

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