Almost a year ago, during our annual Taste and Toast Event, we had the chance to introduce the Cary Academy community to the beautiful new space in the library that was to shortly re-open as the Charger Corner Store and Café. The excitement was palpable and the entire team responsible for getting the store off the ground could barely contain themselves.
For the next two months after that Sheila Hall, our Campus Store Manager, with the support of others, put in the hard work of ordering, outfitting, stocking, merchandising, calibrating, and practicing for a store launch on the first day of T3. The milk and the whipped cream were chilling in the fridge under the counter. The new custom Charger Blend coffee beans were loaded in the grinder. The rainbow assortment of syrups were lined up ready to delight tastebuds. Never-before seen store products were lovingly displayed on shiny new fixtures, waiting for students to ooh and aah over them.
And then… Well, we all know what happened.
Since that day in March, one of the burning questions from the CA community has been “When will the store open up again?” Our reply has been the same – “We’re not sure yet but we’re working on it.”
And we have. We’ve been having to wrestle with all of the same challenges so many small businesses have. How do you operate a retail business and maintain social distancing in a space where students love to congregate? How do you serve food and beverage in a safe and responsible manner? To top it off, we no longer had a Campus Store Manager, since Sheila left CA in June to relocate as she had planned. Hiring a new director in the middle of a pandemic did not make good sense. And above all, we’ve had to prioritize our energies towards getting instruction, student activities, athletics, and dining up and running.
It’s taken some time and a whole lot of effort, but we’re finally at a place where we can talk about the store again. And it feels good.
So, what does that mean?
We’re starting off slowly by relaunching the store online. When the Holiday Shoppe opens for business online on November 16 (you can get a sneak peek of a few of our early-bird vendors now), you will find that you will be able to go to our new Charger Corner website and once again purchase Charger gear – everything from magnets to clothing.
In true Cary Academy fashion, getting to this point has been a collaborative effort. In the Center for Community Engagement, Palmer Seeley, our Entrepreneurship Coordinator, has been guiding both Upper School and Middle School students in building out the website content. (Even if you don’t shop, I encourage you to go to the site just to see our Upper School students modeling merchandise and read the creative product descriptions written by our Middle School students.) Our PTAA volunteers and our Business Office, Development, and Communications teams have been working on the logistics that will allow you to safely order merchandise online and get socially-distanced, curbside pickup in time for the holidays.
What’s next? We have begun the process of assembling the team we need to reopen in brick and mortar form. We are working on finalizing the policies and procedures that will allow you to safely come in and shop. And we are even working with our software vendor to explore ways that we can get café operations up and running safely. We can (almost) smell the coffee brewing…
Stay tuned after the start of the new year for the announcement of on-campus hours. Much depends on how the coming weeks and months unfold. But one thing we know for sure: we remain committed to turning on the lights in Charger Corner and welcoming you back!