DANVERS — The students who opened Falcon’s Nest school store in the lobby of Danvers High this fall learned what it’s like to start a business from scratch.
For starters, although the store opened at the start of the school year, the shelving had yet to arrive.
The students made do: Blue and white “Falcon wear” sweatshirts and T-shirts, merchandise and school supplies were propped on tables until shelves and display cases were delivered at the end of October.
”We had a table there and a table there,” said senior Joe Poirier, pointing out the areas during a recent tour of the store.
Then, less than two months after the store opened, they learned another hard lesson about how outside factors can affect business.
The Oct. 22 slaying of 24-year-old math teacher Colleen Ritzer, allegedly at the hands of one of her students, shocked the school and the community. Many students, teachers, alumni and residents wanted to show their Falcon pride by wearing the school’s colors. They turned to the Falcon’s Nest.
”I couldn’t keep anything in the store for more than a day,” Poirier said.
The surge in business created an ethical dilemma for students.
”It was hard for them,” said business education teacher Meghan Beaulieu Symmes, who works with the students, “because they were sensitive of trying not to take advantage of the situation.” Instead of trying to restock the store as merchandise was ordered, they sent order forms to all the Danvers schools and sent them what they ordered directly.
”We basically just made it as easy as possible to get their things as quickly as possible,” Poirier said.
This kind of hands-on learning is exactly what students and teachers wanted when they opened Falcon’s Nest, the first full-blown store at the high school. It is run by students, all members of the Distributive Education Clubs of America, known as DECA, an international association of marketing, finance, hospitality and management students that has chapters in high schools and colleges. There are active chapters in several North Shore high schools, including Beverly and Peabody.
Poirier, the club’s co-president, manages the store.
From the start, it’s been run like a real business. Students got a $4,000 loan from the Danvers Educational Enrichment Partnership, a nonprofit that helps raise money for the schools, to get the store up and running. Poirier met with Selectman Diane Langlais and School Committee member Connie Pawlak, both DEEP board members, and school officials to discuss the store’s business plan.
”We wanted them to stock it well,” Langlais said, adding that so far it’s worked out well. The students have paid back $600 of the loan.
As part of the business plan, the students are constantly looking at different items to sell and how their inventory is moving, Langlais said.
The store is open school days from 7 to 7:25 a.m., during lunch, and after school from 1:55 to 2:30 p.m., when it’s open to the public. Students who volunteer to staff the store earn community service hours for their work.
”One of the challenges is not being able to have employees that are trained, so most of our employees are friends or people we know,” said senior Brandon Hyde, who helps run the store.
Poirier said his challenge is finding the time to oversee the store, manage cash flow, keep the books and track inventory. He puts in about 10 hours a week on the store, including two class periods a day.
Beaulieu Symmes said the students make all the calls when it comes to running the store.
”They have really been immersed in this process so much,” she said.
Last week, more than 200 Danvers High students took part in the DECA district competition at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Danvers. Of those students, 121 are moving on to DECA’s state career development conference in Boston, Beaulieu Symmes said.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.