The Warrior Store at Wando High School helps students hone the skills they need to excel in the real world. They learn about inventory and merchandising, and why customer service is a crucial aspect of a successful business. Most important, according to Wando marketing teacher and Distributive Education Clubs of America advisor Kirk Beilke, they are exposed to the lessons of responsibility – showing up on time, working without supervision and simply doing the best job possible.
Though the store serves as a training ground for budding entrepreneurs and future icons of business and industry, it is also a source of income for a wide range of school and community organizations, as well as families and individuals who fall on hard times. Beilke, who has been responsible for running the store since the school opened in 2004, pointed out that its profits have provided financial aid for organizations such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, MUSC charities and Dreamweavers, which provides clothes, food, gift cards and other items to families in need.
“If it touches Wando and we can be of help, that’s what we do,” Beilke said. “Every dollar goes back to the school and the community.”
The store grosses more than $100,000 a year and returns around $25,000 of that to the school and the Mount Pleasant community. It has provided financial support for several student organizations at Wando. For example, Beilke and his DECA students recently returned from Atlanta, where they competed with their peers from across the country. Students paid only around $400 to attend; without help from the store’s profits, it would have cost them three times that much.
The store’s overhead is low because the students who work there are not paid for their efforts, nor is Beilke. Some students get academic credit for putting in a certain number of hours, while others get credit toward the cost of DECA trips.
The store, “a full-service retail organization,” according to Beilke, sells more than just school supplies. The shelves are lined with food items, including candy bars, chips, ice cream and cold drinks, as well as books, baseball caps and coffee cups. In fact, it’s one of the best places in Mount Pleasant to purchase Wando-related apparel, and parents are invited to drop by the school to shop for Wando T-shirts and other items. The store is open to Wando’s 3,400 or so students from 8 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. and during lunch, from noon to 2 p.m. Beilke suggested that parents do their shopping at other times of the day.
Beilke, who worked in the business world himself until he started teaching in 1999, pointed out that he will soon have to make a major change in some of his inventory. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Charleston County School District have decreed that schools must sell healthier snacks, including those made with whole grains and those that “have as the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product or a protein food.”
Beilke said most of the candy, chips and processed foods will have to go.
“Sales will probably go down initially, but they will eventually accept the new products,” he said.
Story and photo by Brian Sherman