Grand Opening of S-Mart on Campus!

DSC_0023-compressedJust recently, Center for Higher Independence (CHI) students were excited, very excited. A brand-new store opened on Providence Place’s campus. A corner store? A clothing store? A book store?

Better! S-Mart!

S-Mart is a new store created by the CHI team and students that supplies a range of clothing, accessories, linens, towels and so much more.

The store also has a library section with great DVDs, such as The Karate Kid, Groundhog Day or The Simpsons, and a great stock of video games – Xbox, PS3 or PS2. You can rent DVDs and video games from Friday to Wednesday. The library has 50 DVDs and 30 video games, it’s a great beginning and there will be more coming soon.

“I wanted to rent a DVD, but after talking to one seller, I realized that I could rent a video game, so I rented Assassin’s Creed 2,” said Garrett Rankin, CHI student and S-Mart’s first customer. “I played this weekend and it was fun! I wish I had more time to play the game. I can’t wait to rent something else”.

The idea started when the CHI team decided to offer a new career path in retail for the students. Initially, they hoped some thrift stores might let the students work as volunteers and learn how to talk to customers, clean the store, fold clothes and do other related work, but liability and state law made it impossible.

“We were disappointed at first,” said Natalie Tinsley, Life Skills Instructor and S-Mart Director. “But then we thought we could bring the store right here to Providence Place.”

A few days later, Nathan Adcock, CHI Case Manager, Natalie and other CHI employees started to donate DVDs, video games, clothes to the store. Very soon, they were able to open its door to happy clientele.

But there were other complications. Even though they wanted the students to use money to practice financial responsibility and to learn about money exchange, they couldn’t do it because the students would need to be paid, and the items in the stores are donations.

So the CHI team decided on the idea of using coupons and play money. Students earn a coupon when they do something that’s nice but not required, such as sweeping the classroom floor or helping an instructor during class. The play money – featuring Leslie Bellieu, CHI Director and Judith Bell, Interim CEO – will be distributed next week by life skills instructors when students go beyond expectations in class.

Providence Place employees and others can also make donations to S-Mart and the money will be used to buy other items for the store. Natalie hopes this will make it possible to open a small snack section.

“I love being in the store,” said Rocky, a new CHI student and ‘S-Mart employee.’  “I learn how to greet customers, take care of the inventory, fold and iron clothes, and I also learn retail vocabulary, such as ‘endcap’, ‘layout’ or ‘supply and demand’.”

The students switch roles so they can learn how to greet, advise customers and keep the store neat. They also worked together on the name, logo and tagline – ‘Shop Smart, Shop S-Mart.’

For now, the store is open only on Friday from 2:15 to 3:15, during Natalie’s retail class. She would like to open it more often, which will depend on how motivated students are. But they’re already there, she thinks.

“I’m very impressed; they pay attention, they learn fast and when they are not sure, they ask me. It’s been great,” she said.




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