Former Student-Run Store Reaps Profits

WHEELING – Most of the 88 investors in the Madison General Store at Madison Elementary School probably forgot they purchased stock in the business in 1987.

But since the student-run store closed three years ago it is now time to liquidate the stock, said Rosemary Anderson, a retired mathematics teacher who started the program. Investors, who included teachers, school administrators and parents, purchased one share of stock for $1. Now that one share is worth $10, Anderson said. She plans to send letters to the stockholders letting them know they have money coming back to them if they want it. The account holds $2,748.

“It was a huge adventure. The kids loved it and it provided a service. It gave them a lot opportunity to work with money and retail,” she said.

The idea for the store came about after the students had questions about the stock market at that time. To help them learn about how stocks work, Anderson and the students consulted with a local broker, Ken Baber, who advised them to do a two-week limited stock sale. The Madison General Store also received a business license and paid taxes to the state of West Virginia.

The students took turns working the store and received 25 cents a day to do so. They ordered the inventory, which consisted of about $1,000 in school supplies. They had a board of directors. They had rules and punishments related to shoplifting. They wrapped the coins collected in the cash register and took them to the nearby WesBanco bank for deposit.

“It gave them self confidence. It was an important position to work the cash register,” Anderson said, adding students had to be at least in the second grade to work the shop.

Since the students didn’t actually receive cash for their work, just coupons, sometimes they would bring additional change to work so they could shop before classes started each morning. For example, pencils cost 10 cents apiece and crayons were 25 cents.

“They would sit on the floor and put out their pennies and count them. It was so important to count the money because it was real – not something in a book, but real,” Anderson said.

The students learned how to make change at the cash register, which Anderson acquired thanks to a grant, and price inventory correctly.

“They learned every aspect of business there was to learn,” she said. “It was a lot of work, but it was fun work. It was neat. … It was amazing.”

Anderson is sending letters to the stockholders letting them know they have money owed to them. There are a few she does not have current addresses for, however. Those people can call her at 304-547-1414. She believes most of the money likely will be donated back to the school.

Anderson, a Valley Grove resident, worked at Madison for 30 years and retired about three years ago. After retiring she started the after school program there. Since leaving Madison, she is now working with Propel charter schools in Pittsburgh to develop an after school program.

Baber, who retired last year after, said the Madison General Store was a great success because of the students’ and Anderson’s hard work. The investors were willing to take a risk and in the end it worked out for everyone. He said the stock return increased 1,000 percent since 1987.

“That’s a heck of a return,” Baber said. “The fact that it was a success is not a surprise, but it’s even more successful than I thought it would be. … I’m amazed more than anything. It’s another great success story for Madison School. It was fun to be a part of it.”