VILONIA — A store offering Vilonia Eagles-themed clothing and related items has open in a non-traditional site.
Located within the walls of Vilonia High School, the Eagle Nest specializes in selling athletic items, bearing the school’s official logo, including T-shirts, sweat shirts, pajamas, mugs, caps and bags as well as pens, pencils and highlighters.
"Making it affordable for students — that’s key to us," said Cheryl Theall, general manager. "We will not have a lot of high end items."
On that note, Theall also wants it be known that "every dollar spent here goes back into school programs. Purchasing here supports every student in our school."
Theall is currently polling customers asking for ideas regarding stock. For instance, she said, she plans to begin offering stadium seats, license plates and house flags.
Why? Because some parents asked for them. The delay, she said, is finding affordable prices.
Another aspect, Theall plans to implement a recycling program.
"We are going to allow gently used clothing, that has been outgrown, with generic Eagle logos, to be brought in and exchanged for a dollar off coupon on a purchase," Theall said.
The used items will be laundered and offered at a cost of less than $5 to other students, she added.
While Theall is the general manager, she is assisted by several student volunteers. They were selected, she said, as a result of an application process and serve as cashiers, inventory clerks as well as in other facets.
"This gives them some hands on experience for part-time jobs," Theall said.
Theall describes one student, senior Jake Wiedmaier, who is student manager, as her "right-hand man." A member of Beta, he is required to volunteer 10 hours a year. However, Theall said, he volunteers about 15 hours per week. Wiedmaier, Theall said, had her stamp of approval prior to the selection committees’ recommendation. She knew from experience, she said, he was honest and dependable.
"I had worked with him in Booster Club doing concessions," she added.
A long-term goal, Theall explained, is to allow business students to use the store as a as a small business entrepreneurship lab. In the meantime, the desktop and multimedia classes are already involved in the operation. They are producing designs and following through on "the tweaking and proofing" process to satisfy customers.
A heat press was delivered recently allowing additional items to be produced internally. East Lab, Theall said, will produce the transfers. The press, she said, will enable students the ability to customize shirts with names and numbers.
Theall is gearing up for Senior Night as well as Christmas. The shop can gift-wrap and ship. It accepts cash and checks but no credit cards. A grand opening is set for Nov. 8. On that day, the first 10 customers will receive a free Vilonia Eagle cap.
Planning for the store front began in April with the actual building of the storefront beginning in the summer. Theall said her entire family including her mother and two daughters, Kelsey and Samantha, volunteered many hours of labor to get it into operation. A new computer system was installed allowing everything in the store to be bar coded and placed into inventory. Also, the computer helps with generating sales reports.
Theall, the store’s only paid employee, refers to her job as being a situation where she has the best of both worlds. For more than 20 years, she worked in marketing and advertising for a major corporation. She is also a certified elementary school teacher and taught in Massachusetts prior to moving to Vilonia.
"Now, I can combine what I loved about both into one — work with kids and sell," she concluded.