Thursday, June 20, 2024

Beloved James City County School Store Set to Close Unless Buyer is Found

School Crossing, located in Monticello Marketplace, will close in April 2024 if its owner doesn’t find a buyer. (School Crossing)

WILLIAMSBURG — School Crossing, located in Monticello Marketplace, may be seeing its final days. Owner Sherry Phipps is actively searching for a buyer to keep the store open.

Since 1990, the store has been known to for its educational toys and games. Teachers, parents and grandparents have often flocked to the store to buy items for classrooms, birthdays and holiday gifts.

If Phipps can’t find a buyer, the lease at the Monticello Marketplace location will expire in April and the store will close.

Phipps ultimately wants to spend more time with her family.

“When I first started, I never had planned that I’d be doing this for three decades. Every year, I’d say ‘I really love what I do, I’m not ready to walk away and do something different,’ but this year, I was going to have to renew my lease. I just realized that I didn’t want to get to the point where I hadn’t been able to travel or go away for the weekend,” Phipps explains.

Phipps originally started the business as a teacher supply store. Stock included teacher workbooks, bulletin board kits, classroom decor, bingo games, trimmers and flashcards.

In a short period of time, however, Phipps saw an influx of parents who would come in looking to encourage education at home. It was then that the store expanded its stock to include toys, games and craft kits.

Sherry and Bob Phipps are the owners of School Crossing. (School Crossing)

The store continues to sell toys ranging from Legos and dolls to dress-up clothes and blocks. There is an array of arts and crafts kits, fidget toys, cars and trucks, and books galore. Also still popular among teachers, School Crossing has classroom decor items, flashcards, educational games and more.

“Over the years, it just kept getting bigger and bigger because of the toys. The majority of our business now is the toy business. Education has changed so much over the years that I knew we always needed to expand the toy line, but with always an educational slant to it,” Phipps said.

The store even has a batteries-not-needed section to encourage creative play that may not necessarily be found on a tablet screen. Encouraging play is just another part of Phipps’ job.

“I hate to say it, but kids just don’t do creative play anymore. Once iPads and cell phones got in their hands, creative play has kind of gone out the door. Ten years ago, our age range of children’s toys went to the age of 12 or 13. Now the age group of children playing with toys has shrunk majorly. Technology has a lot of really good attributes but it also has stunted children’s creativity and problem-solving skills quite a bit,” Phipps said.

When news of the impending closure hit social media, Phipps was shocked at the amount of comments from her customer base. The outpouring of support from social media sparked the idea that instead of closing, selling the business might be the best option.

A small sampling of some of School Crossings toys and games. (School Crossing)

“When we announced it, everybody who commented was saying ‘you can’t close, you have to found a buyer,’ it kind of took on a life of its own. Within 24 hours, I had maybe seven or eight people contact the store about being interested in buying the location,” Phipps explained.

Now marking her 35th year in business, Phipps says it’s the customer base that she will miss the most.

“Williamsburg is an area where people stay. I’ve known some of my customers their entire life. I’ve seen them in strollers and now they have children who are in strollers. I’ve seen multiple generations. I’ve been part of their lives for the good times and the bad times. We’ve cried together and we’ve laughed together. It’s like leaving really good friends behind,” Phipps said.

Approaching the impending closure, Phipps is selling many of the items in the store at 20% off.

Interested buyers are encouraged to reach out to Phipps. If there is no new buyer in place, the store will officially close by the second week of April.

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