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Back to Class: How the pandemic changed the way teachers, parents thought about school supplies

The owner of Smarty Pants in Findlay says parents bought items from her store to help keep kids at home occupied during remote learning.

FINDLAY, Ohio — When you think back to class, school supplies are at the top of parents’ minds, as well as teachers’.

But what is the best place to get them? 

In a time where many teaching supply stores are on the decline - largely because of Amazon and other big box stores - Smarty Pants in Findlay has found success.

Owner, Jane Hassan says through COVID, many families realized these supplies can be used at home for learning and keeping kids entertained.

“That suddenly became an urgent need for all of these children who are at home,” said Hassan. “Parents who are at home, trying to work from home and looking for ways to keep the kids occupied that didn't involve the screen.”

She credits the success to the store’s ability to adopt multiple digital marketing strategies, which brought a whole new customer base and income stream.

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"We got to the point where we had two markets and needed two locations. So COVID has actually been a blessing,” said Hassan. “All of those teachers seem to be going back to school this year."

Both Smarty Pants locations in Findlay have anything a teacher would need for their classroom.

"We ended up opening a second space so that we could dedicate that directly to teacher supply and the classroom decor and still have the other storefront that has toys, puzzles and games and arts and crafts, and those products that kept children busy while at home" said Hassan.

But some teachers say it's easier and cheaper to shop online or big box.

"I feel that, yes, I could go to other smaller stores. But, I would be getting three things from this store, three things from another store,” said Jordan Hector, an art teacher for Van Buren elementary schools. “It's just easier for me to go to one big place, get everything I need and go about it that way.”

As an art teacher, Hector is constantly buying paint, glitter, and other craft supplies.

But she's at a crossroads with COVID cases on the rise and school heading back.

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She says she's concerned with class sizes and what supplies are needed.

"When COVID first happened we were trying to social the kids as much as possible and we didn't want them sharing any supplies. So, I would actually have my students bring their own supplies to art,” said Hector. “So they were bringing their own pencils, erasers, scissors, glue, things like that."

Going forward, she says she's still trying to decide what will be best and whether her students should bring their own supplies or if it's okay to share.

Like so much of life in 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has unexpectedly changed what might seem like the most mundane things, like where folks get school supplies.


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