The student store on campus has undergone several significant changes this year, offering a wider selection of goods, expanding into a bigger facility and being operated by a new outside vendor.
Some of these changes have provoked controversial reactions from students and faculty alike who question the presence of an outside company controlling the store and the repercussions of its presence in our community, while others have nothing but praise for the modern installation.
In previous years, the student store was run by the school.
Checking out consisted of students saying “a pencil and a calculator please” and Mailroom and Student Store Clerk Ms. Cindy Kosinski would enter the purchases into a computer.
Katie Rauner ‘16 noticed that “the original store was more personal because you didn’t have to scan everything, but now Ms. Kosinski can easily check students out.”
According to some, it now looks like a gas station convenience store. The store is twice its original size, and has aisles filled with junk food, bars, snacks, and a refrigerator stocked full of drinks and juices. There is Thacher-branded everything, from spandex to bags of peanuts, all stamped with the school’s emblem.
Spanish teacher Ms. Molly Perry commented that the intimacy of the new store is “ironically more personal because there are now more Thacher branded items, but because of that it now feels less personal.”
However, some do appreciate the new technology of the store.
“We now can see how much we spend on the screen where we sign our signatures,” says Charlotte Driscoll ‘16.
This new feature is something the previous store did not have.
“It is helpful to see how much you are charging home now,” commented Driscoll. “Now I don’t accidentally spend way too much on unnecessary things.”
Along with helping students track spending, there were several other practical reasons why the school implemented changes in the store; fiscally, it had no profit margin.
Ms. Kosinski said, “the school was actually losing money from the old store. It was much less efficient than it is now.”
Another previous issue was the limited storage space that the student store had. Mr. Jim Poulsen, Director of Finance and Operations said, “we hope the inventory is managed more efficiently.”
The vendor we use now, Higher Learning Supply Company, is located in Massachusetts and is used by four other boarding High Schools on the East Coast.
“I worked with this company when I was at Northfield Mount Hermon School,” said Mr. Poulson. “The Thacher School Store didn’t have an online presence or the ability to handle credit card transactions, but we now accept credit cards.”
Ms. Kosinski said, “it has facilitated us to have an online store as well, including an online bookstore.”
The online store was recently implemented during Family Weekend.
Other factors that contributed to the change were the student and faculty requests and demands.
Ms. Kosinski said that part of the change stemmed from the students “wanting more name brand items to be able to be sold, and the previous store did not allow us the means to do that.”
Mr. Okin, math teacher, says, “[I] love the new student store. There is more space and more to offer.”
Ms. Kosinski pointed to the rack of baby hats, onesies, and stuffed toads across from her desk.
“We want to also provide for the alums and clientele of all ages.”
The new company facilitated the heightened quality of items, now selling NikeⓇ, JansportⓇ, Under ArmourⓇ and other name brand apparel; however, one downside of this change is the higher prices.
Chio Maeda ‘16, sporting a green Thacher 1/4 zip pullover, praised these changes: “I really like the new variety and quality of the Thacher gear.”
Mr. Joel Sohn, English teacher, is opposed to the new excess of plastic bottles in the store and the impact they will have on Thacher’s sustainability efforts.
Dean of Students Ms. McMahon responded to the issue of waste. “We do need to stop and think about the single use options and their repercussions on the environment. They exist and we need to help people recycle by making it easy to recycle. Our generation must be mindful.”
Yet, the student store is selling food and drinks at a rapid pace. Ms. Kosinski said the daily average revenue of the store is approximately $1200.
It is unclear how much debt the student store accumulated over the past several years, but according to Mr. Poulsen, the store is still paying off the debt. However, the question of what percentage of the profits will go to the school when it finally breaks even was not answered.
A final issue has also been discussed among students and faculty.
The higher prices affect some students who don’t have the means to purchase all the goods available on a daily basis. Some have noted that this creates a divide in the community between those who always have an expensive juice, drink, or snack in hand, and those who don’t.
Ms. Kosinski notices that “there are regulars, but I also have kids who never come in at all.”
Mr. Sohn said, “students carrying around Naked Juice or Izze soda every day make visible the socioeconomic division that Thacher tries to keep invisible as part of our community values.”