Get your bite on at Gator Alley


Derek Zhao outside of the newly renamed Gator Alley.

Emily Simons, Reporter

An important aspect of student life at Annie Wright is the bookstore, the student store: a one-stop shop for snacks, uniforms, and other student necessities. This year, Special Assistant to Head of Schools Derek Zhao has taken charge of the bookstore and has made significant changes to the bookstore. Some of the most noticeable changes include extended hours and the promotion of the name change from the previously called bookstore to Gator Alley. 

There has been a large consensus of positive opinions concerning the positive changes of Gator Alley. “Derek has done an amazing job with the bookstore, and he has really made improvements to it that have improved the day of many students, through providing a diverse range in products that students enjoy,” said senior Sophia Jeter.

Inkwell interviewed Zhao about the details and insights of Gator Alley:

Inkwell: What is the purpose of the bookstore? 

Zhao: The purpose of the bookstore, in my opinion, is I think we want to make it a fun, friendly, warm place for students and faculty, where everyone can come gather together. I put up the sign on the door: “friends gather here,” so of course we are selling a lot of good choices, some healthy snacks, drinks, some candy too, but we are trying to go down a more healthy track. You can see this year that we have taken away the soft drinks, so we don’t have that anymore.

Inkwell: Is making profit a priority at Gator Alley and is there any revenue being produced?

Derek: In general, I think we are making some money, not a whole lot, because we are serving students and we want them to feel great. We don’t want them to feel like they are getting ripped off, and so when they compare the prices I want them to go “oh that is very reasonable” or “that is cheaper than outside.” 

Inkwell: How do you get feedback on the items in the bookstore? 

Zhao: In terms of selecting products, I want to make it so I am able to include everybody’s feedback and what items they like to buy. I like to create an environment that makes it feel like a community space where people feel comfortable with giving advice on what they want to see. I remember their names and create a connection with them, in order to create an inclusive and diverse environment. 

Inkwell: What have you changed about the bookstore?

Zhao: I began to change up the bookstore a little bit. I made it so if people want to buy uniforms, they have a fitting room to try it on, to make it more private. I have fixed the bookstore up a little bit. I hung some pictures of students, artwork of the gator sign, the school logo, got some new decorations. Overall, I would like to offer a warm environment, where people are welcomed and included.  

Inkwell: What do you want students to know about the bookstore? 

Zhao: I try to bring in new items every week, in order to make sure that students are excited about the selections. I feel like that really makes them want to come back to Gator Alley. They want to come back to see what is new, making it feel like a treasure hunt, and they like it. I feel like people appreciate it. 

Inkwell: Why has there been a recent name change for the bookstore?

Zhao: I hope that since we are not selling books, I think that the name bookstore should move away and Gator Alley should replace it. I think that it would be more appropriate in my opinion because we are Gators, promoting gator spirit, and we are selling a lot of spirit gear online. So it becomes a third environment to students, so it creates a unique area.