Staple of FAU College Life, It’s Owl Time, Closes its Doors Permanently
Just one day before receiving a letter from the City of Boca Raton that announced the closure of all nonessential and commercial businesses until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic, Florida Atlantic University merchandise store, It’s Owl Time, officially announced it would be permanently closing its store near the middle of May.
The store, located on NW 20th Street, has been operating for the past seven years under owner and FAU Alumni Mark Noll. However, with FAU cancelling classes and all sporting events for the rest of the Spring 2020 semester because of COVID-19, Noll was not receiving customers and thus the decision was made to close down.
“It is with a heavy heart that I announce we will immediately begin liquidating our inventory with the purpose of closing our store permanently by mid-May after seven years of being a part of the FAU community,” Noll said in a statement via the It’s Owl Time Twitter account on Tuesday. “I am not looking at this as an unfortunate situation that we are all experiencing, but rather reflecting on how fortunate and lucky I was to get to live my dream.”
As it was coincidental that the city closed all nonessential businesses after Noll’s announcement, he felt he needed to be proactive with the current situation going on around the world in preparing for the worst.
Despite the announcement and disappointed reactions from those who follow the store on Twitter, Noll will still be selling any merchandise available, even if that means now to shift to online orders only.
“I could have sat around for a few months, but I’d rather get my inventory sold and move on,” Noll said. “We don’t know when [the coronavirus] will end [and even] football may be impacted.”
With support from FAU President John Kelly going to the store on Tuesday to buy FAU apparel and even former FAU football coach Lane Kiffin tweeting a broken heart emoji in response to the news, many Boca Raton residents also visited the store on Tuesday to buy new Owls gear and thank Noll.
“People [were] coming in buying like crazy [and] I got 50 online orders [on Tuesday] morning,” Noll said. “[Even] the president of FAU [bought] things he obviously [didn’t] need to buy, so the support is just unbelievable.”
When Noll announced the store’s closure on Twitter, FAU Alumni Brandon Sirota was one of the first to offer his thoughts by tweeting “let’s work together to help save Mark, a local business, an FAU legacy and the only place that sells our teams merchandise that’s STUDENTS AND FAMILIES ALL LOVE!”
Sirota, who graduated in the spring of 2018, served as the Interfraternity Council President from 2016 to 2018 during his time in college, where he encouraged the university’s greek life members to buy Noll’s FAU merchandise and wear it to tailgates, football games and other sporting events. Sirota even recalls his first time entering the store.
“From my first day as a freshman buying my first polo all the way to my senior year seeing Lane Kiffin sign the famous wall and buying a shirt with his face on it, that store meant a lot to me, my friends, and the FAU community,” Sirota said. “Mark’s place wasn’t only a store, it was iconic for FAU students, athletics, and an FAU tradition built on pride for the university.”
The “famous wall” Kiffin signed that Sirota is alluding to are the blue-colored walls around the It’s Owl Time store, where Noll would invite any significant athlete, coach, or faculty member to sign their name in black sharpie, engraving their name in FAU’s history for years to come.
Some of these historic FAU “celebrities” that signed the walls in the past, include not only Kiffin, but new FAU football head coach Willie Taggart, former FAU running back and current Buffalo Bill Devin Singletary, and NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who visited the university last June after his son, Rahsaan Lewis, transferred from the University of Central Florida to play wide receiver for the Owls. As these are only four names, the list could go on and on.
While the signatures on the walls will most likely disappear alongside the store, Noll, however, may offer anyone, regardless of their ties to FAU, to sign the walls if the store can reopen before permanently closing.
“In the coming weeks or when things die down a little bit, I’m planning on saying anyone who wants to come down and sign the walls can sign it, you don’t need to be an athlete or anything else,” Noll said. “[The signatures are] never going to be erased and [if] someone eventually paints over it, the signatures will still be on there.”
Now, with Noll having to shift his store completely online, the uncertainty of when the coronavirus will end continues. Despite not knowing what he will do after officially closing, Noll is just “thankful” for the last seven years.
“I’m not 20 so I may just retire,” Noll said. “I got to live my dream and not many people get to do that, so I’m just thankful I got to do this.”
To continue supporting Noll, orders can still be placed on http://itsowltime.com/. A GoFundMe page has also been created by one of his friends to support him financially, where $524 has already been raised with the goal being $5,000.