Students in Rothsay, Minn., gets hands-on learning from store
As Lanesboro School District officials consider partnering with a local group to help reopen a grocery store, the school district in the small town of Rothsay, north of Fergus Falls, has run its own store for years.
Since 1988, Rothsay high school students have taken classes at The Storefront , a hardware and lumber store that carries some groceries, owned and run by the school district as a way for students to earn credit and receive real life, hands-on experience.
"The store is half a block from the school, so it works out well," said Wanda Zimmerman, a district employee who runs The Storefront.
High school students spend a class hour at the store as a business elective. The class is limited to 10 students, who split up the duties of running the store. That's everything from doing the accounts payable and receivable, waiting on customers, stocking shelves, ordering inventory and general cleaning. Students in the construction trades class also do small building projects, such as storage sheds and picnic tables, for customers.
In addition to Zimmerman, who works part-time with the students, there's also a certified teacher on site.
The store doesn't make a great deal of money, Zimmerman said, but it does generate enough to pay the bills, reorder inventory and pay the salary of what's mostly a part-time staff.
"When it was started by the school the object was not to make a lot of money, but be more of a convenience to the community," she said.
The school's entrepreneurial history was featured in a report published in 1992 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
The school district bought the hardware store for $19,000, received a $30,000 grant for inventory from the West Central Minnesota Initiative Fund, and within three years built the inventory to nearly $45,000, according to the report.
The store's success comes in part through tax breaks, community support and the willingness of workers to earn less than the going rate and work for school credit, according to the report.
Soon after the school began running the hardware store, Tom Fosse, a business/education liaison had the local high school students form an independent, student-owned corporation, Tiger Inc., which purchased and ran the city's former grocery store, Tiger Mart. The company was set up so that students became members of the company by investing $5, which was returned to them on their 19th birthday, when they had to resign. All decisions were made by member votes. Tiger Mart closed more than a decade ago.