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Illinois State business alum Larry Ernat ’94 has managed The Alamo II for almost a decade. Although Ernat graduated 21 years ago, his passions and his business philosophies stem back to his days studying in the College of Business (COB).

Rather than wait for a lull in sales, Ernat asks why something is working well. He said Peter Drucker’s book, The Practice of Management, assigned in an ISU business marketing class, influenced him.

Alamo II clock
The iconic Redbird clock outside Alamo II.

“It’s always been at the forefront that the purpose of a business is to create a customer,” Ernat said. “I remember reading that when I was 27 … that’s crucial in the service industry.”

As Ernat spoke, his staff continuously moved about helping customers, filling displays of snacks students purchase between classes. It was as if they genuinely wanted to be there. It was as if they genuinely liked their jobs. A sign of sound leadership, yet Ernat shied away from taking full credit of The Alamo II’s friendly, yet focused atmosphere.

“So much was in place when I got here; The Alamo had such a great foundation,” he said.

With a double major in marketing and business administration, Ernat is as eager to develop pilot and marketing projects as he is to oversee the development of his bookstore staff. Biology student staff member and senior Colleen Murphy attested to such personal development. Over the past three years, she said she’s learned how to better communicate with customers and determine their needs.

ISU’s Family Weekend was an example of Ernat’s leadership, as well as his team’s ability. He said sales increased “virtually 100 percent” from 2014’s Family Weekend. He attributed part of that to a record freshman class and ISU’s football team playing in a national championship, but also his staff, who replenished the retail floor at warp speed. The team “exceeded anyone’s expectations, which was rewarding,” he said.

Ernat has no plans to stop there. He and his team have additional innovative marketing strategies and ideas to implement.

For instance, the floor space dedicated to greeting cards and various school supplies will look quite different.

“With the newest version of the Nike Redbird Professional shop, there will be an addition of mini shops where the departments will sort of point themselves out,” Ernat said.

And given Ernat’s love for his college, look for an area with COB items.