Bear Lake students’ holiday pop-up shop raises money for senior trips

BEAR LAKE — Five years ago, when Bear Lake Schools teacher Amanda Harthun was serving as adviser to the junior class and was looking for a way to help the students raise funds for their senior trip, she wanted to do something special.

“There were magazine sales, like the typical school fundraisers, and I just wasn’t interested in doing those. Even though it was a fundraiser, I felt bad about the high prices of the items,” Harthun said. “I was just looking for something different and a way to think outside of the box, because in a small school everybody kind of claims their fundraisers, so I felt like a lot of the good ones were taken by other teachers with more seniority.”

Eventually, Harthun settled on the idea of opening a pop-up shop downtown, and The Exchange was born.

“At the time, a friend of mine, Krista Leann’s Studio of Hair Design, they allowed us to rent a spare room of theirs. The kids were responsible for coming up with their own product or items and coming up with ideas,” she said. “We talked with them about it and I said, ‘I don’t want church bazaar items; I want classy, Pinterest items or Etsy-type items.’

“They were responsible for getting their own materials, their own supplies, setting their own price and getting their own ideas.”

Students who work in the store receive a 15{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} commission.

“We had a class meeting and we were discussing how to (pay the shop workers). I couldn’t afford to do an hourly wage, because I didn’t know what kind of money we were going to make,” Harthun said. “We decided that we would pay the shop workers a commission, kind of like you would a waitress. We agreed on 15{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} commission for sitting in the store.”

In that first year, The Exchange exceeded Harthun’s expectations and served not only to raise funds for the class trip, but also provide plenty of learning opportunities along the way.

“It was wildly successful. Some items didn’t sell, and so that was a lesson at business and economics in itself,” Harthun said. “‘Is this item worth making? Can you make a profit on it? Should we lower the price?’ and so on. We had trainings of how to do customer service — how to talk to people, how to run the cash register, how to bag up the items and things like that.”

After two years, the shop moved next to Maggie’s, where it operates today.

“She has a little auxiliary shop attached to her shop, and so we’ve been at Maggie’s for three years. Maggie donates all of the rental space to us,” Harthun said. “There are a few things in our agreement that we have to do to work off that rent, but the owners, Meg and Jim Kieszkowski, are extremely generous and supportive of the kids and the school and learning what it means to be entrepreneurs.”

The Exchange is a holiday pop-up shop. Harthun joked, “I can only work seven days a week for so long.”

“We follow the opening of Sparkle in the Park, so we open after Thanksgiving. Sometimes, depending on when Thanksgiving falls, we’ll open around deer hunting time, and then Christmas Eve is our last day.”

The Exchange is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays.

“Our shop opens during the hours of Maggie’s. The shop is open Friday through Sunday — when we’re not in school,” Harthun said. “We have short Fridays. We’re in school until 1 p.m. on Fridays, but Maggie will open our side up and run it for us while we’re in school.”

After the class that originally opened the shop graduated, Harthun opened the opportunity to make items or work in the store to all students in grades 8-12.

“One hundred percent of the money that comes from that store goes right into the school’s account, which we have earmarked for every kid,” Harthun said.

Harthun uses a point of sale system from Square to run the shop. This allows her to ensure every student is compensated for their items sold.

“When a child brings in the item, I take a picture of it and put it in a category under their name,” she said. “I track everything and then at the end I email the children and the teachers that are responsible for them and say, ‘Congratulations. You’ve earned this much money from The Exchange.’

“And the 15{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} goes to the store workers,” she continued. “There are some items I use for shop overhead expenses, like the purchasing of the bags and the tissue and the credit card fees, so none of that is coming out of the child’s account.”

Items in the store are made by students, staff and families of Bear Lake Schools, and even some generous crafters in the community.

“There are some community members that like to craft and they just drop things off and say, ‘Can you put this toward the student that needs it?'” Harthun said. “So we earmark that, or we’ll give it to the current senior class that’s going on the trip and have them buy the whole group dinner with the money, or something like that. For some kids, the crafting’s not their thing, but they sure like working in the store.

“Some kids have been so successful in this that, out of a typically $1,000 trip, they’ve maybe paid $100,” she continued. “They’ve raised all the rest mostly from our store. They do very well.”

Like so many things this year, The Exchange was affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This year, with COVID, it’s a little bit different. I wasn’t sure if we were going to open or not, if we were going to be shut down, if we were going to be allowed to open — so our products are more sparse this year,” Harthun said. “Families for whatever reason couldn’t get to the store to get things, or just didn’t feel it was going to happen, or whatever reason, but items are still rolling in.”

Due to the emergency order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s suspension of all school sports activities, Harthun is currently The Exchange’s sole salesclerk.

“We didn’t feel it was a good idea for the kids to be working at a store when they can’t be in school or doing sports. Currently, I’m just manning it and volunteering my time,” she said. “I’m not going to take the commission from them when it’s not their fault. That’s what we’re currently doing, but I’m hoping I can open it back up to my high school shop workers if the order comes off Dec. 9.”

Seven Bear Lake students have products in the store this year and more are hoping to work in the shop if the MDHHS’s emergency order is not extended beyond Dec. 8.

Those seeking more information can visit The Exchange’s Facebook page.


PHOTOS: Bear Lake shop hosts story time event with Santa, aims to foster community ties

PHOTOS: Bear Lake’s Sparkle in the Park offers outdoor strolling, drive-thru festivities

Next Post

Jada Pinkett Smith Mom Shamed For Homeschooling Kids, Willow Shaving Her Head

Thu Dec 3 , 2020
Willow says she “felt like me and Jaden were like shunned a little bit” from the “African American community” because of how they were raised. Mom shaming was the topic of the day on Tuesday’s new episode of “Red Table Talk,” which saw Jada Pinkett Smith, daughter Willow Smith and […]

You May Like