School store opens in cafeteria of Ridgewood School

Photo by Daniel Jackovino Behind the counter of the new store at Ridgewood Avenue school is, at center, fifth-grade student Mariee Voss.
Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Behind the counter of the new store at Ridgewood Avenue school is, at center, fifth-grade student Mariee Voss.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Ridgewood Avenue School has opened a student-run store in its cafeteria. The grand opening was last week.

The area being used was, until recently, a storage room for pallets and paper.
According to Principal Mike Donovan, the transformation was the idea of Jack DeWitt, the director of student services; teachers Christine Coppola, Jen Burno, and Laura Heber; and him.

“We thought, if we could open a store where students could have experience with money, enhance their interpersonal skills, and had a lot of hands-on learning, they would gain real-life skills,” Donovan said.

He said the idea came first, then the location. Help came from the custodial staff of John Debuque, Ahmed Mohommad and Ed Lawrence.

“They gutted the room,” Donovan said. “It was all messed up. The Ridgewood Home and School gave us $500 to purchase inventory.”

The store is work. Children and teachers must create inventory sheets with price points showing gains and losses.

“There are so many incredible learning experiences here,” Donovan said.
The store will be run for all the children. The school is occupied by third- through sixth-graders. Some of the shopkeepers were requested by teachers; other students volunteered.

“The fifth- and sixth-graders took the lead,” Donovan said. A dozen students will be “full time,” he said.
The will be open during the four lunch breaks, from 10:50 a.m. to 1 p.m. Individual tables will be called when it is time to shop. But the store can not sell food, as part of the arrangement the district has with its food vendor.

“It’s a like a little boutique in Montclair,” Donovan said.
The Ridgewood Avenue School held a contest to design the store logo
A sixth-grader, Tyler Johnson, came up with the winning entry. The clever name of the store is Rhino-Store-Us. The school mascot is the rhinoceros.

The store evolved from a folding table and cart kept in the back of the cafeteria. DeWitt said the students had more pride in a store.

The president of the Ridgewood Home and School, Kristin O’Neil, who was at the grand opening, as was Schools Superintendent Dirk Phillips, said it is hoped the store will become self-sufficient but her organization will always be there for support.

Items in the store range in price from 10 cent erasers to a $15 backpack. And there are other school supplies and water bottles.

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