There's never been a store like it on campus.
That's what officials are saying about the Illini Union Tech Zone - a new, state-of-the-art technology store opening this month on the southwest side of the Illini Union's ground floor.
At 2,500 square feet, the Illini Union Tech Zone's size dwarfs that of the nearby Flash Drive store, which will be decommissioned and replaced with an as-yet undetermined business.
But the change involves more than just offering more display space than the comparatively tiny Flash Drive store.
"This new store is going to allow us to house more technology and serve the students, faculty, staff and visitors like never before," said Christine Dietrich, the assistant director of retail technology for the Illini Union.
Dietrich said one of the advantages of purchasing high-tech products from the Illini Union Tech Zone is that the store offers educational pricing, which equates to lower prices for students and faculty/staff members.
"Plus, everything you buy here goes back to supporting student activities and events" she said. "This store is truly for the U. of I students, faculty, staff and alumni."
Walls will be filled with the latest gadgets and accessories, and several large flat-screen display kiosks scattered around the showroom floor will allow potential purchasers to get hands-on experience with their prospective computer hardware.
In addition, the new space includes a demonstration room to further test products, as well as a separate, expanded service desk. The old space only allowed one technician to work in the store at a time; the new one increases that number to three.
Dietrich said store managers also would advocate on behalf of patrons regarding vendor repair and parts-replacement issues, and that a new in-store system would allow patrons to schedule service appointments in advance at their convenience.
The store will carry all computer brands, plus an expanded selection of Apple products, and be staffed seven days a week.
"You'll be able to test what you want to buy or you can bring in equipment to see if it is compatible," she said. "We want to be a partner in the entire life cycle of the product you buy here."
And the testing isn't limited to personal-use products. Dietrich said store staff will be well-versed in educational applications and capable of offering advice to students and faculty members.
"We'll have students working who are in the sciences and who already utilize the technology they're talking about."
She said there are plans to soon offer training classes for the use of some equipment and software.
The grand opening for the Tech Zone is Oct. 26 at 10 a.m., with refreshments and giveaways.