- Associated Press - Saturday, August 29, 2015

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. (AP) - Like summer vacation, Bainbridge School Supply will come and go in a busy blur.

The back-to-school retail pop-up opened in mid-August next to Safeway in the Island Village shopping center. It will close a week after school starts.

Families armed with classroom supply lists filed into the small store, poking through shelves lined with pencil boxes and stacks of notebook paper.

Bainbridge School Supply is both an experiment in seasonal retail and a fundraising vehicle for island school organizations, which receive a portion of the profits. So far, the experiment has shown promising results, said Terry Arndt, who owns the store with his wife, Joanna.

“You can see by the parking lot it’s a hopping place,” Arndt said. “Lots of people in and out, a lot of parents.”

A hopping local hub is what the Arndts were in search of when they moved their business from downtown Winslow to High School Road this summer.

Bainbridge School Supply is one reincarnation of Paper Products, a Winslow Way shop that served as a perennial destination for back-to-school shoppers and regular stop for office odd-and-ends. Paper Products had been in business for 40 years, but recently the store’s owners found themselves in a losing battle with online retailers. Patronage from locals seemed to dwindle after a recent Winslow Way reconstruction project, Arndt said.

“We’d seen a continued decline in business,” he said. “When we looked at the financials, it didn’t make sense anymore.”

The Arndts shuttered Paper Products on July 31 and started two new enterprises on High School Road. One is a year-round arts and crafts store, Create Bainbridge. The other is Bainbridge School Supply.

Paper Products supported Helpline House food bank’s Project Backpack program, which provides school supplies for students in need, and hosted regular fundraisers. With Bainbridge School Supply, the Arndts decided to partner with even more education groups.

“We wanted to make sure this isn’t viewed as Paper Products just opening something real quick,” Arndt said. “We really wanted the community to be involved in this store.”

A portion of profits from the store will go to the Bainbridge Schools Foundation. Island parent-teacher organizations and private schools will hold “takeover” fundraisers at the shop. Customers are encouraged to donate supplies to Project Backpack.

Supporting school organizations helped get the seasonal store get noticed. The groups have promoted Bainbridge School Supply in newsletters and on social media this summer to help drive up donations.

If sales are strong and customer feedback is positive, Bainbridge School Supply will pop up again next summer. The trick is finding temporary space in a high traffic area.

“That’s the challenge each year, finding a convenient location,” Arndt said.

Arndt believes pop-up back-to-school stores could work in other towns, particularly if they’re partnered with school groups. He’s already been invited to discuss the model at trade conferences.

“I think it can be replicated,” Arndt said. “The marketing is key.”


Information from: Kitsap Sun, https://www.kitsapsun.com/

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