article_16Cheektowaga Bee article by JESSICA L. FINCH, Editor:

To a teacher everything is a treasure — a finger painting, a hug, a thank-you, an A+ from a previously average student — even their tools are Treasures. Year after year teachers collect posters, books, etc. used to teach their students. These items carry a lot of memories for that teacher.

Andrea M. Richards-Bridon, proprietor and owner of Teachers, Tools & Treasures at 664 Cleveland Drive, has opened a store to hold all these treasures, and there are a lot of them. “After teaching for 33 years I had a shed, garage and attic filled with materials used in the class-room,” Richards-Bridon said, adding she didn’t know what to do with it all.

When she retired she considered giving it to the next teacher or going to flea markets but with the massive amount of items she had, she decided to open a store to resell the materials. After sending out fliers to schools across Western New York down to Pennsylvania, as far north as Niagara Falls and east to Wilson, advertising her store, Richards-Bridon found her store filled with used items from retiring teachers, teachers who had switched grades and home schoolers.

The amount was so large that she wasn’t able to bring in all of her own items. The store is consignment based, everything a teacher sells they are given a percentage of. There are also some new items, including Staples products, stickers and puppets. “This has been beyond my wildest dreams, beyond anything I thought it would be,” Richards-Bridon said. “The store is just busy constantly.”

When she began taking the steps towards opening her store, Richards-Bridon realized there was no other store like hers. She was told by a small business association that nine out of 10 businesses fail in their first year but she’ll be the one who will succeed. Opened in August 2003, she has made it through that first year and continues to see success in the future. She said she has found a great location for a unique idea.

She chose Cleveland Hill Drive because it is in the middle of Erie County and close to major routes such as the 33, I-90 and Harlem Road.

Even days she expects to be slow are busy. This past June she thought would be a slow month because of school ending but it was the exact opposite, retiring teachers were bringing in their “treasures” they would never use again and new/continuing teachers were looking for a deal on items they would be using for years to come.

“If a teacher treasured and used an item they think it must be a treasure to someone else too,” Richards-Bridon said. “They have treasured their materials for many years and didn’t want to give away.”

She added her store is especially popular with student teachers trying to buy a lot of materials on a budget. Recently she had a young woman come in who was leaving to student teach in China and wanted to get as many of her items in English before she left. Richards-Bridon said by the time she was done she had spent $500 for $3,000 worth of items. The materials brought in are either priced by Richards-Bridon or the consignor. Student teachers have found textbooks for $10 in the store that are priced at $90 in a college book store.

“First I had to think like a teacher and then organize the store,” Richards-Bridon said, adding the store is “teacher friendly.” Books and materials are organized in specific, not just general subjects. For example, textbooks around rocks and minerals are placed together, not in a general science section.

Teachers, Tools & Treasures is an educator’s emporium, Richards-Bridon’s flier states. Included in the store is material related to technology, foreign languages, physical education, guidance, art, home schooling, tax guides, videos, teacher gifts, clothing and gift certificates.

Richards-Bridon has been asked to speak at seminars about her idea and her store. She said there are just as many people coming in to buy items as there are to sell …