By Kylie Jue
Stanford Biostores, which has been supplying reagents and general lab supplies to the research community on campus for the last 50 years, will be officially shutting down on March 31.
Established within the Department of Biology, Biostores is located in the lower level of Herrin Labs and serves as a “7-Eleven” for research supplies. As a service center set up through the University, the store undergoes annual evaluations, explained Bettye Price, administrative services manager in the Department of Biology.
“The purpose of the store is not to be a place of procurement,” Price said. “If you forgot to order something, you know that you could go and get it from the store.”
According to Price, the decision was based on feedback from several faculty members and administrators in the department. Furthermore, plans to tear down the Herrin building in the near future may have contributed to the ultimate decision.
“We’re a department that doesn’t have subsidized things. We operate purely on grants and contracts,” Price said. “It’s all to do with the funding. We’ve tried to do our best to maintain the store.”
The biggest consumer of goods from Biostores was actually the Medical School, Price said. Although she admitted that researchers will need to be more proactive in planning, Price explained Stanford still has methods in place for the procurement of supplies.
“We’re sad about the whole thing, but we have to be responsible,” Price said. “It’s not the decision we would have hoped to make, but it was the decision we had to make at the time.”
Joseph Shackelford, administrative services manager of Biostores, began working at Stanford in 1985. He recalled that in his early years at the store, concern already existed about its sustainability.
When customers first heard about the planned closure of Biostores, some researchers started a petition to keep the store open. While Shackelford expressed appreciation for customers’ concern and value of the store, he also explained that the Biostore cannot exist in its current state.
“It’s too bad Biostores is going away, but we just don’t have the funds to continue it,” Shackelford said. “Another entity could possibly pick up the slack and present it in a different format, but in the format it is now, we can’t continue.”
Patricia Ramirez, finance and operations manager in the Department of Biology, explained that Biostores has been unable to generate enough revenue to stay within the profit guidelines for service centers.
According to her, revenue began to decrease about five years ago.
The income started to go down and then eventually we were in the red,” Ramirez said. “We were still able to continue on because we were within the 15 percent but…it wasn’t getting any better; it was getting worse. For that reason we decided [Biostores] can’t go on.”
Graduate student in chemical engineering Christopher VanLang M.S. ’11 Ph.D. ’14 was one of the researchers who helped distribute the petition to save Biostores. He said that the store helped keep supply costs down for the research community.
“Having Biostores on campus made our jobs a lot easier in terms of actually doing a lot of supply ordering,” VanLang said. “It was a last minute resort and they did a lot of the negotiations for us. So [Biostores was] a really great way to keep costs down because we have an on-campus supplier.”
According to Ramirez, although one of the current Biostores staff has been laid off, whether or not the others will remain working for the University is uncertain.
“The staff has been wonderful to work with, and we are going to miss having the stores there,” Ramirez said.
“I’m proud of our store and what we’ve done,” Price said. “I really don’t know what to say or what we could have done differently.”
Contact Kylie Jue at kyliej ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.