GOSHEN — Dee Conn spends most of her day teaching second graders at Model Elementary in Goshen. When school’s out, she heads to her other gig — selling school supplies in a consignment shop downtown.
She sees her store, School Yard Sale, as a place where retiring teachers can sell their stash and new teachers can find what they need for their classrooms on the cheap.
“A couple college students came over from Valparasio, and they were like ‘Yes! We don’t have to go to 50 garage sales this summer,’” Conn said.
The layout of the store fits its name, but it’s more organized than the typical yard sale. Conn has books, paint, window clings, plastic containers, markers and more organized inside labeled copy paper boxes. Her wares sit on wooden shelves that Conn said her dad built for the store.
Some items are donated, but “the large majority of it is consignment,” Conn said.
She has 33 consignors, mostly local teachers who are content to split sales 60/40 — with Conn collecting the 60 percent. New items are available too, including brands like Scholastic, Macmillan, and Milton Bradley. Conn also sells things she’s made, like pillows covered in Very Hungry Caterpillar fabric and knitted ninja hats.
Some items, like carpet squares, plastic cups, and magazines, are free. These are things that teachers would typically spend months collecting for a project, Conn said.
She prices items based on age and condition, and tries to price them low enough to sell immediately.
“I don’t ever want this to be a teacher museum,”Conn said. “I price things to go back out the door.”
Shoppers don’t usually come in looking for one particular item, Conn said, but “the one thing everyone is looking for is a bargain.”
Conn opened School Yard Sale to give Goshen teachers a place to go for school supplies — without having to make the trip to education stores in Mishawaka and South Bend. And as a teacher herself, she knows what it’s like to have limited funds for the classroom.
“I get PTO dollars, but I try to be careful with it and not waste it — you never know when that will dry up,” Conn said.
She relies on word of mouth to gain new customers, and regularly gets people who just wander in the store wondering what it’s all about.
The store is only open from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays to support a teacher’s schedule.
Conn said she doesn’t mind tacking another three hours on to her workday.
“This doesn’t feel like another three hours of the day — it feels like Christmas,” Conn said, referring to her innate love of books, charts, and other “teacher things.”
“It’s just a fun, happy place to be,” she said. “It’s a place for me to come and be surrounded by the stuff I already enjoy.”
School Yard Sale opened in July 2013. It’s located at 120 N. Main St. in Goshen and the store’s hours are 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.