Larry Abramoff

Larry J. Abramoff

Student at Lehigh University in Bethlehem

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Lehigh University in Bethlehem

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Education

Lehigh University

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Founder  - Tatnuck Bookseller

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At one point over the last two years , I felt I'd lost my vision , said Mr. Abramoff , president of Tatnuck Bookseller & Sons Inc. on Chandler Street.I was looking at what these Internet companies were doing , and I couldn't figure it out.The more they lost , the more their stocks went up.I thought , 'How in the hell can I compete with this?'.For the first time since he founded Tatnuck Bookseller as a 23-year-old in 1975 , Mr. Abramoff gave serious thought to quitting.Internet based competitors such as Amazon.com were selling books at below cost to woo customers.Large chains such as Barnes & Noble Inc. and Borders Group Inc. had moved online as well , while also adding new brick-and-mortar stores in Central Massachusetts.Our most loyal customers were coming in and saying , 'I can get it cheaper on the Internet , ' and , what could you say , they were right , said Mr. Abramoff.He contacted Clark University's Graduate School of Management and offered his business as a project for six of the MBA students.They studied Tatnuck's prospects in the changing book-retailing landscape , examining the effects of the Internet and e-books , among other things.Their conclusions pushed Mr. Abramoff's company in a surprising new direction , he said.The students argued that Tatnuck was well-positioned to capture a piece of the growing business of managing college bookstores , a $10.1 billion market.Today , Tatnuck manages student bookstores for WPI , Clark , Becker College and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy , having snatched the contracts away from such larger competitors as Barnes & Noble and Follett Higher Education Group.Next year , the company hopes to announce additional contracts at schools outside of New England , Mr. Abramoff said.These schools are very much connected to the community , he said.And we can service them because we are the community , too..That is a message not missed by Mr. Abramoff.What does a parent most want from their children's college.A hat , a decal and a sweatshirt , he said.His son , Joseph , is a student at Lehigh University in Bethlehem , Pa. Lehigh decals adorn Mr. Abramoff's vehicles.Tatnuck Bookseller is not entirely new to the college bookstore market.A decade ago Clark approached the company about managing its bookstore , but Mr. Abramoff felt unprepared for such a challenge then.If we had taken it on at that time we would have blown it , he said.In 1995 , WPI approached Mr. Abramoff and asked him to bid on the management of its bookstore.Abramoff made a presentation to a campus committee , and wowed the members , she said.His enthusiasm was infectious , she said.He was ready at that time , and we were ready..Earlier this year , when WPI opened its new $17 million Campus Center , Mr. Abramoff worked with the school to create a bookstore there.Since Tatnuck has managed the store , sales have increased 40 percent , Mr. Abramoff said.The first time we dealt with them , Larry sent us a memo to hand out to all of our students.It said if you have any problems with the bookstore , call Larry at this number.And I think it was his home number.That's the kind of attention we like.Follett did a good job , but Larry just does a better job..Tatnuck's larger competitors have paid him little attention so far.Follett , for instance , manages 681 college bookstores , raking in $1.3 billion in annual sales.Mr. Abramoff said he is happy to take his competitors' customers.He is also relieved that he has outlived a barrage of Internet-based competition.Companies such as varsitybooks.com , bigwords.com and textbooks.com all have filed for bankruptcy or suffered enormous losses.Their promises of lower prices were eaten away by shipping costs , Mr. Abramoff said.Their promises of greater convenience was undermined by misdirected or late packages and other fulfillment issues , he said.That created an opportunity that has reinvigorated his business -- and Mr. Abramoff.He now believes that he hasn't lost his vision after all , he said.With five campus bookstores opening for the new school year in less than a week , he exudes the enthusiasm of a freshman walking onto campus for the first time.Virtually all of those Internet companies are bankrupt , he said.The Internet model that everyone said would work doesn't work.It turns out in the end that the traditional retail model is not a bad model.Ha , I say..Send this page to a friendGet a printer-friendly version of this page

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Nothing else we've ever done has approached this," said Tatnuck Bookseller owner Larry J. Abramoff.
"I've read all three "Harry Potter' books myself, and I'm just like the kids: I wanted them to go on and on." Abramoff said people started lining up at 11 a.m., some with lawn chairs and picnic baskets.

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~ Larry Abramoff, publisher

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