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Enterprising Spirits: Teacher’s World sales decreased by school closures, pandemic restrictions

UPDATED: Tue., June 30, 2020

Shannon Chiamulon, Teacher’s World owner, right, and Jana Tancik, sales associate, center rear, assist customer Penny Estock, left, in her purchases of puzzles, toys, crafting sticks and a Ladybug Land on Thursday in Spokane Valley.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Shannon Chiamulon, Teacher’s World owner, right, and Jana Tancik, sales associate, center rear, assist customer Penny Estock, left, in her purchases of puzzles, toys, crafting sticks and a Ladybug Land on Thursday in Spokane Valley. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

For Teacher’s World owner Shannon Chiamulon, learning isn’t only derived from sitting down and reading a book, knowledge can come about by other creative means.

The store’s shelves are filled with workbooks, hands-on learning materials, art supplies, toys, graduation decor and all the classroom decor a teacher could ever dream up.

“I fell in love with with educational retail over 10 years ago,” she said. “I know the importance of having good quality educational materials, and I really enjoy helping people choose things that are going to work best for them.”

Chiamulon said she had to come up with new ideas to mitigate the impact pandemic closures and restrictions have had on the only educational retail store in Eastern Washington.

When schools initially closed in March, Chiamulon said they had a short-lived increase in sales from parents who bought learning supplies to help their children learn from home.

“Some people will come in and say, ‘Oh you guys must be doing so well’ because they think of all of these kids at home, but it’s been quite the opposite,” she said.

Teachers are the Spokane Valley store’s largest customer base, so when teachers stopped shopping there as school buildings shut down during the past few months, sales dropped by about 30%, she said. Although they’ve seen some teachers go in recently, many of them still are unsure of what materials they will need for the upcoming fall term, she added.

Chiamulon said they’ve also lost business from churches and from graduation party decor sales, as well as from child care and pre-school workers who buy decor or educational items.

Employees and Chiamulon herself have been wearing masks and following recommended health and safety guidelines, she said.

“We’ve gotten creative, we want our customers to be comfortable and, you know, shop how they need to shop,” she said.

Teacher’s World, 4808 E. Sprague Ave., has been offering curbside pick-up, delivery on orders above $40, and private shopping appointments, Chiamulon said. They’ve also teamed up with other small businesses to try an increase the sales, including by selling some education inventory inside other businesses. Although those strategies haven’t brought up the revenue to usual levels, they have provided some revenue, , she added.

“We normally have toys out on the table up front for kids to play with and test out but we’ve put those away due to COVID,” she said.

Chiamulon said she’s been thinking about expanding the amount and variety of toys the store offers, but that has been difficult to accomplish because of the current circumstances.

As a former teacher, Chiamulon has worked extensively with children from all ages and said it has been extremely rewarding to see their progress while learning something new and witnessing those “aha moments.”

Children’s learning styles vary; some are more hands-on while others prefer to have workbooks, she said, and Teacher’s World has something for everyone. It’s important to make sure children are having fun while they’re learning because they’ll be more engaged engaged with what they’re learning, she added.

Before Chiamulon and her husband bought Teacher’s World about three years ago, she worked there part-time.

Local businesses can better interact with customers, Chiamulon said, adding that she enjoys helping people select what they need to help their child learn and have fun while doing it.

Summer time is normally the busiest season for Chiamulon, but as uncertainty continues to surround what fall classes will look like sales will continue to be impacted immensely.

This worries Chiamulon who said she may have to close the store.

“We’d have to do well in the summer to make it through some of the slower months of the year,” she said.

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