Right on the edge of Fat City, there's an unlikely establishment specializing in supplies for teachers. The exterior of the Educator (3017 Edenborn Ave., Metairie, 454-5147; 1760 Stumpf Blvd., Terrytown, 367-8910) features a big yellow school bus to welcome teachers, parents and children. Inside the former carpet factory, owner Gary Levy helps his sons Greg and Aaron run the store. "Thirty-seven years ago my wife Jan and I started this store because there was a need for school supplies and teacher supplies," says Levy, who despite being retired loves coming into the store every day,
He and his wife opened Educator in 1976, and since then have added a second location on Edenborn Avenue. The store's atmosphere resembles a classroom. Specialty rugs, tables and chairs, puzzles, chalkboards and posters line the front area and help children feel comfortable in the store. "The kids come in and see things from their own classroom," Levy says, "and they identify with that."
Parents can find nap mats, crayons, pencils, markers, art supplies, books bags and notebooks for kids to bring to school. There are math, science, grammar, creative writing and English workbooks, grade books and classroom charts, motivational posters and bulletin board borders. These goods, as well as the laminating machine, help teachers customize their classrooms and cater to their students.
"A successful teacher is going to select products that work for her," Levy says.
The wide variety of items draws teachers year after year, some of whom reunite with their peers when they shop in August. "We have one customer who flies from her home in South America every year," Levy says. "She comes to the store and stocks up on supplies, and then flies back to South America to teach."
Sometimes people outside the teaching profession frequent Educator. "We get business from hotels so they can decorate their break rooms," Levy says. Hollywood film industry professionals come in for set items. "They buy tables, or mats or chairs," Levy says. "Anything they buy and use, they then donate to schools around the area."
Though new technologies have shifted the landscape of education, Levy says his business has kept abreast of the changes while staying true to the fundamentals.
"Our offerings have blossomed over the years, but we still believe in the basic building blocks of education," Levy says. "Making sure a child can read at their particular level, write and speak correctly by the time they leave the classroom is important to us."