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May 5, 2014

Laurens mall was no mere child's play

The Daily Star

---- — Shop local. And shop often.

I did some local shopping last weekend. In Laurens. At the new mall.

Let me explain.

Laurens Central School became the latest area school district to employ a Young Entrepreneurs Day. It was excellent. Students representing classes from third to eighth grades opened up a “shopping mall” inside the school gym on Sunday. What an experience for these young businessmen and businesswomen of the future.

“It really was exciting for them,” Ramona Wenck, school superintendent, told me. “Each child came up with their own product to sell. They then had to research it, produce the item by themselves and learn the basic tenets of business like marketing, money-handling, advertising, promotion and cost analysis. And this was all on a volunteer basis. They did not have to do this if they chose not to. They did their prep work on their own time after school. They really got into it. And you can see by the wide array of booths that there really is a little bit of something for everybody here.”

I am a notorious non-shopper, as my wife knows, but I was determined to make several purchases from these future W.T. Grants and Martha Stewarts. I perused the Bracelet Boutique and made a pit stop at Amanda’s Brownies for some nourishment. I liked her business slogan (“There’s love; and then there’s brownies”). Elias Poling (age 9) was next door manning his Elias’ Sweet Tooth stand selling truffles (“They’re like a ball of chocolate that’s flavored and stuff,” I was told). Food booths seemed especially busy at the Laurens Mall this day.

My first purchase was a handsome bluebird bird house at young Brock Manning’s booth. He personally signed his handcrafted piece for me. At $15, I felt I got a good deal. My wife came around the bend with a giant Tootsie Roll Pop bouquet of “flowers” from 11-year-old Kaleb Sonnenberg’s Kool Candies kiosk. Sensing this would be a good time to make a Mother’s Day purchase, I bought Trish a beautiful pair of paper origami earrings made by Jacob Lyons. “I have been doing origami most of my life,” the businessman told me. He is 13.

The aisles were packed with happy shoppers at this event. I cruised up and down every row, making sure to stop for at least a chat with each young vendor. I gave a special high-five to Elijah and Derek at Mamus Pies. I voted them the best logo of the day. Above their sumptuous display of homemade pies was a sign reading, “THIS is why we have ants!”

Jillian Segina, age 11, had the most ambitious product at this pop-up mall. She made a cappella music CDs for your listening enjoyment, and she was giving all of her proceeds to charity. Listen up, Warren Buffett.

I spotted an older girl sitting in the back at her own table and went to see what her role was. Her name was Maeve O’Neill, a senior. In front of her was a sizable box of money. “I am the banker for the day,” she told me solemnly.

“What is your main duty?” I asked.

“I never let the money out of my sight,” she said with a smile.

This event was a real eye-opener for me. These kids were excited about it. Several of them were dressed up in suits and ties, and they all wanted to put on a great first impression for their customers. Skyler and Brooke White (10 and 8) were just busting their buttons about their Sisters Flower Power display. It featured tie-dyed coffee filters made into flowers. “You don’t even have to water them.”

Meg Perrine (8) had a little bit of everything at her table. “Yup, knitting, baking and tying,” she said proudly. Stephen Albright (10) was downright exhausted from all of his bracelet sales, and Sierra Rondeau’s Quack Cakes were almost gone by the time I got to her booth.

“These kids are just so bright and had so much fun doing this project,” Superintendent Wenck told me. “Barbara Ann Heegan from the Chamber of Commerce brought this project to our attention and we are glad she did. As you can see, it is a big success.”

Congratulations to all of the youngsters who participated in Young Entrepreneurs Day at Laurens Central School. You were able to get me to do something my wife has been trying to get me to do for years.

Shop. And enjoy it!

I’ll catch you in two ...

“Big Chuck” D’IMPERIO can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his “Oldies Jukebox Show.” You can find him on Facebook by searching “Big Chuck.” He invites you to contact him at His columns can be found at