May, 2008

May 08

Falling in love with McAllen, Texas

I have been in love with Texas ever since the three years I lived in Denton, while attending college. Two weeks I fell in love all over again, but this time it was with McAllen, Texas. McAllen is great. I’d love to live there! You can see the sun from every place in McAllen. No tall buildings. The air, although warm (or perhaps hot!) seems very clean. The people are friendly and the city boasts an enormous medical center. It seems as though I’m not the only person who feels this way. Upon my return I read an article on CNN online listing the top 10 places to live in the USA. Guess which place was #1? McAllen! Let me take you on a quick trip through Humble, Texas and on to McAllen.

As you know, everything in Texas is big; so big that it made sense for me to fly to McAllen rather than drive from Houston. On my way to the airport I stopped in to visit Debby Barnett Beal at the A2Z Educational Supplies Store in Humble, Texas. Debby’s store is filled to the brim with neat, educational resources and as she says, it’s really close to the airport!

The A2Z Educational Supply Store [left] and Debbie Barnett Beal [right] helping a customer in her store.

The gigantic Gateway Printing and Office Supply headquarters is located in Edinburg, a short distance down the highway from McAllen. The main store is housed in an old building with plank floors. It feels like stepping back in time, especially because of the friendly customer service. At the back of the store, within the same building, is the printing operation.

The enormous, Gateway store [left] and chatting with Shawnea Cantu [right], buyer.

O’Neil Specialty Company has been a McAllen family business for 3 generations. Although there are two locations for the O’Neil Specialty Company, I met with Nydia Garza at the home office and warehouse in McAllen.

The O’Neall warehouse located in McAllen [left] and Nydia Garza Califa [right] in her office.

Jones Cook Stationers is a well known chain right across Texas.
One of the main locations, which has an excellent selection of educational resources, is located right in McAllen. Austin Miller, Pily Almendarez and I had a great visit. I love McAllen and can hardly wait to return!

The educational audio display at Jones Cook Stationers [left], Austin Miller [right], manager and Pily Almendarez [bottom], sales associate.

May 08

Celebrating Texas – Where Everything is Big!

I can’t think of any better place, to brag about our award-winning, English-Spanish Bilingual Songs series, than in Texas. For the past week I’ve been doing just that, criss-crossing Texas via planes and rental cars in order to visit as many educational retail stores as I can.

Now I can truly vouch for the old adage that everything in Texas is BIG! Big stores, big hearts and big aspirations! Texas is so big, as a matter of fact, that it’s easier and more cost effective to fly, from city to city, than to drive.

I began by visiting Cynthia Huereque in El Paso. Check-out her enormous, 9,000 square foot, store, Eraser Dust.

Then on to meet with Irma Escontrias, the owner of Houston’s Eraser Dust store.

Houston is also home to some pretty interesting and bright kids’ toy stores. About 30 minutes of GPS assisted driving took me to Esther Charubhat’s brand new colorful toy store, Westside Kinder Toys. This store has so many toys and activities packed into it that it is hard to walk!

It took a lot of sleuthing to find the site of Elayne Wolfe-McNeil’s A+ Literacy Education and Development but it was well worth it.

Next stop was Crystal Children and Teacher Supply to meet with manager, Merrylyn Thornton. This interesting store fills all of the curriculum needs of an educational store but also rivals the brightness and visual appeal of a toy store. With a teaching background, and presently directing the tutorial services, Merrylyn knows almost everything about every product in the store and can answer the questions of concerned teachers and parents with authority.

Houston’s West Side Teacher Supply store is managed by Rosalyn Arredono. Originally from El Salvador, Rosalyn is able to accommodate the needs of Hispanic as well as English speaking shoppers. West Side Teacher Supply is fairly new, and was one of the original sites of the Southwest Teacher Supply stores. The place was buzzing with the activity of teachers and parents doing last minute shopping before the beginning of the next school year.

Looking at the front of Coastal Teacher Supply in Houston, one would never imagine that Carole and Clyde’s store is as big as it is. This store is deceiving and you could spend an entire day inside discovering teaching materials.

Bright and cheerful Aurora Hart is the owner of Learning Tools in Humble, Texas. Since Aurora bought the business three years ago her store has now grown to 2 locations within the same plaza. Congratulations Aurora!

I’ll continue soon with the rest of my Texas tour, the home of big stores, big aspirations and big hearts!

p.s. If you ever rent a car, make sure you pay for the insurance package. Look at this damage and learn from my experience! Luckily I had paid the extra for insurance.

Many thanks to the guys at Midas Muffler, who found and replaced a burned-out fuse in my rental van, so that my GPS could continue to function. These guys saved my life as I tried to navigate the freeways of Houston!