Campus Colors makes a successful move in Highland Park
8 year-old Abby Rappin of Lake Bluff playfully holds a Chicago Bears jersey at Campus Colors on Friday, August 3, 2012 in Highland Park, IL. | Jon Durr~Sun-Times Media
Address: 599 Central Ave., Highland Park
Management: Highland Park resident Jon Rubenstein
Offers: a large selection of officially licensed collegiate and professional sports apparel and novelties
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:38PM
Taking over what might be downtown Highland Park’s most high-profile retail storefront, Campus Colors is thriving in its sparkling new Central Avenue home.
After a long run at 1860 First St., Campus Colors moved around the corner in March to fill out the newly remodeled Borders bookstore building, at 599 Central Ave.
“It’s been a great move for us,” said second-generation owner Jon Rubenstein, a Highland Park resident. “We are seeing people in the community that we never saw before. You can’t beat the prime location across from Port Clinton Square.”
Campus Colors, along with its partner Pro Colors, sells an impressively large selection of officially licensed collegiate and professional sports apparel and novelties.
After stints on First and Second streets, the Rubensteins jumped at the chance to move to the 3,700-square-foot stadium-like space when the Borders building makeover was complete.
The only initial concern was a lack of dedicated parking, Rubenstein said, but that’s no longer the case.
“People are having a more-enjoyable shopping experience and are able to see more of the product here,” Rubenstein said. “It’s a great presentation for us. It shows off what we are: A clean, modern staple in the community that is here to stay.
“We aren’t a flash in the pan or a fad. The new building fits what we are doing. It has really become our flagship.”
The company, headquartered out of its warehouse on Old Deerfield Road in Highland Park, was founded in 1991. Campus Colors also offers stores in Chicago’s Water Tower Place mall, a shop in Hinsdale and another in the Deer Park Town Center.
Located in Big 10 country, apparel from those Midwest schools remains Rubenstein’s top sellers. Surprisingly, University of Michigan gear has been outselling the University of Illinois, Rubenstein reported.
While Chicago sports fans ride the ups and downs of their favorite professional teams, Rubenstein said the emotional connection to one’s college never wanes.
That’s the secret to Campus Colors’ success.
“With college merchandise, no matter how bad your teams plays you will always root for them and have a place in your heart for them,” Rubenstein said. “As a parent, you often want to have your kids root for same teams you do. We get families that deck themselves out in Michigan gear on Saturdays like they do for the Bears on Sunday.”
Such traditional collegiate powerhouses as North Carolina, Duke and Florida continue to sell well locally. Kentucky and Oregon have been solid lines recently, too.
Rubenstein admittedly laid off on Penn State gear after the university’s child sex abuse scandal broke last year with former coach Jerry Sandusky’s arrest. Still, Rubenstein added, college sports fans and alumni don’t lose their school spirit.
“Those alums and fans will still support Penn State,” he said. “We aren’t selling the quantity we used to but we still carry it in our stores. We weren’t running any Penn State fire sales.”
In Campus Colors’ professional section, the Bears hitting the practice field this month and high expectations have translated to more Bears apparel sales.
The top Chicago jersey remains Derrick Rose, Rubenstein added.
But the story in Highland Park is Campus Colors’ success feeding the local demand for sports apparel for 21 years. Its successful move to Central is the model Rubenstein has set when reviewing options to expand further.
“As leases come up with our other stores, we are looking to make them all more like Highland Park,” Rubenstein said. “The move has had a positive impact on our business.”