Jennifer Reed P '23 wrote this blog post about how her job as manager of Bear Essentials, the Landon School Store, gives her the opportunity to be an on-campus mom to boys in our Lower, Middle and Upper Schools. Jennifer's husband Bill is chair of the History Department and head coach of the varsity soccer and baseball teams. Their son Willis '23 is in Grade 6 at Landon and daughter Josie is in Grade 5 at Holton-Arms.
My official job title is "manager, Landon School Store." But I call myself "Mom All Day." Even though my own children leave for Landon and Holton with their dad at 7 every morning, I have the awesome responsibility of keeping my eye on all of our Landon Bears. And I do this from Bear Essentials, Landon's School Store, all day long.
The store's customers are more than just that; they are my son's friends, my husband's students, my friends' children. And that fact shapes my approach to the job in ways I had not predicted. My job is to sell merchandise, but I am driven more by the relationships I have with our families.
Boys come racing in to Bear Essentials every day before school to replace forgotten belts and ties. They pop in before a math test for calculator batteries or protractors. Students come in during break or recess to pick out gifts for their dads or new baby cousins. My job is as much being a stand-in parent as it is being a retail expert. Below are a few examples of conversations I've had...
"I'm not sure that T-shirt will fit you, let's find you a larger size so you can wear it through lacrosse season."
"Perhaps I can help you find a pair of shorts from the sale rack, since I know this is the third time this year you have misplaced your P.E. uniform! And I'll help you write your name in them."
"I am sure your grandfather would love that coffee mug, but let's get permission from your parents before you charge it home..."
The snack section of Bear Essentials is stocked with only wholesome snacks, ones that have passed the "mom test": no artificial colors or weird blue drinks; lots of protein and whole grains; real foods such as hummus, cheese, dried fruits and nuts, but also lots of allergen-free options, too. This isn't the most profitable way to run a shop serving adolescent hungry Bears, but I feel good about what I am offering.
I don't coach, teach or even mentor Landon boys, but I am one of the few people on campus who sees boys from every division every day and gets to know them all by name. I help them learn how to ask for help, how to manage a budget, how to make good choices when presented with myriad options, to remember to say please and thank you. To put their phone down and look me in the eye and have a conversation about their day.
And because the boys have this relationship with me, many of them feel comfortable giving me feedback on what's in the store and what they would like me to add. When I stock gear that boys want, they wear it out into our community. Our graduates are proud to sport their Landon swag, which helps to promote our great school all over the world, where our grads are doing great things. And that Landon sweatshirt he's wearing? It came from Bear Essentials, and I had a part in that. What mom wouldn't love this job?