MARQUETTE - For students, their parents and alumni alike, showing pride in their school comes in the form of sporting their school colors, whether it be on a sweatshirt, sweatpants, t-shirt, coffee mug, blanket or jacket. And some area schools do that through "spirit stores," which have the sole purpose of outfitting patrons with those school colors.
At Ishpeming High School, the spirit store, appropriately named Hematites-R-Us, has been going for about six years and is student run, with the help of teacher Scott Syrjala. Every year there is a student manager, who takes care of inventory, special orders and the day-to-day functions of the store.
"To be honest, it would not run without student involvement and without their motivation," Syrjala said. "You want it to be a learning experience for the kids. It's their school store, not my school store. I found the less involved I am, the more involved they want to be."
Hematites-R-Us student manager Austin Peterson is seen organizing inventory in the spirit store at Ishpeming High School. The store is student run and is currently in the process of creating an online shop. (Journal photo by Claire Abent)
This year the manager is senior Austin Peterson.
"I kind of do a little bit of everything. It keeps me busy and it won't look bad on a resume," he said.
Peterson said that the toughest part of the job is keeping track of inventory.
"To be honest, it would not run without stuident involvement and without their motivation."
- Scott Syrjala, Hematites-R-US spirit store
"You're dealing with a lot of numbers," he said.
The spirit store is making some big changes in the near future by developing an online store. Students in all of Syrjala's classes are helping to create and manage the website, with the help of some external sources with will handle things like credit card transactions.
With the impending launch of the online store, it will help expand the market for Hematites-R-Us.
"It's bringing it into the 21st Century," Peterson said. "I'm for it. I think it's a pretty good thing. It might start off slow but with word of mouth I think popularity will spread and it will pick up over time."
And it will continue to challenge the 35 students who are involved in its creation.
"I think its a great opportunity for business students, accounting students and web design students to get real world experience and to spread school spirit," Syrjala said. "If they do it, it gives them a sense of accomplishment."
"I think that when everyone gets older they'll look at the website and say 'Hey, I created this,' and it will give them a sense of pride."
Hematites-R-Us is located in Ishpeming High School and is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday and also during home athletic events and other special events. For more information, contact Syrjala at 906-485-1066.
At Marquette Senior High School, the spirit store is run by the MSHS Booster Club, a parent organization and is managed by parent Tamra Ledbetter. It began 10 years ago and has grown from there.
"We just wanted spirit in the stands and something for the kids," she said. "It's just getting bigger and bigger."
This season has already been a successful one. Ledbetter said she has sold out of a number of football-related items and has been taking sales outside during the football games.
"I've been taking it outside to the football games and the response has been great," she said. "It's just going really well."
Big sellers at the store include sweatpants - Ledbetter said there hasn't been a day that has gone by where she hasn't sold any - as well as blankets, hoodies of any kind and baseball hats. Also new this year are decals specific for both boys and girls sports, which have been well received.
"The feedback on those has been great," she said.
The great support behind the store has helped to keep it going and keep it popular.
"The school is supportive as well as the booster club," Ledbetter siad.
The spirit store is located inside MSHS and is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as during athletic events. Contact the store at 906-225-4468 or visit spiritstore.mapsnet.org/ for more information.
Claire Abent can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.