Alumni-owned bookstore gears up for end-of-year rush

Final exams are right around the corner and so is one alumni-run bookstore frequented by Bearkats.

Sean Smith | The Houstonian

Sean Smith | The Houstonian


Kampus Korner Discount Bookstore, located on 1605 Sam Houston Ave., buys and sells textbooks all throughout the school. Wanye Rainwater, a class of 1950 alumnus, and his daughter Dene’ Swearingen, who graduated in 1976, opened the store 20 years ago.

Rainwater received a bachelor’s degree in business and then received his master’s degree in 1960. Swearingen graduated with a Business Office Administration degree and has been working in the business for 27 years.

Rainwater has been working in the bookstore business for 65 years and was inspired to go into the business when he was just an undergraduate in college.

“The first two years that I went to college I went to Georgetown University,” Rainwater said. “One day I was sitting in a coffee shop on campus, and I saw a students come in to sell a book back. That was my first experience seeing that, and I liked what I saw [and] knew that was what I wanted to do with my life, so I did.”

Rainwater grew up in the small Texas town of Calvert and, after graduating high school, served in the Navy during World War II. After serving in the military for two years, Rainwater decided that he wanted to attend college and after spending a couple of years at Georgetown University he transferred to Sam Houston State University.

After graduating, Rainwater became the manager for the campus bookstore and eventually became the owner. However, Rainwater knew what he really wanted was to start his own bookstore.

When Rainwater found the location he wanted for his store, it was still a restaurant that had a few rooms for rent upstairs. In the lot next door there once stood a full-service gas station before it was converted to a parking lot. After the owner put the restaurant and hotel on the market, Rainwater bought it and made it his own.

Unlike her father, Swearingen was not sure owning a bookstore was what she wanted to do while she was in college. Before she went into the bookstore business, she worked for an insurance company for 17 years. She and several student employees help the bookstore run and thrive.

“We try our hardest to give the best service we can,” Swearingen said. “We will buy books back every day and usually give students about half of what they paid for their textbooks originally if we know that we will be able to use that textbook again the next year. If we can’t give students half, we will usually try to give them market value for their books which can range from a few cents to a few dollars.”

According to Rainwater, they have not always had the best opportunities to contact freshmen and that the SHSU university bookstore has a better chance of selling textbooks to them. In spite of that, the rate of upperclassmen who have come to his bookstore over the years has only increased, he said.

He believes that Kampus Korner gives better service than most bookstores around Huntsville and will continue to serve SHSU and students in any way that he can.

“I think that students like coming here because we offer good service and, if you give good service most customers will come back,” Rainwater said. “I think we have an advantage because I own the store and enjoy working with students. It also helps that I am a local and have invested a lot into the university and the community.”

All in all, Rainwater said the community is what drives him to own and operate Kampus Korner.

“In the end it’s not competition that keeps me running this store the way that I do, it’s the university and the students,”Rainwater said. “The university has been really good to me, so I try my best I can to give back to it, and I do the same for our students.”


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