Star Beacon Products, Grandview Heights’ go-to place for school supplies and arts and crafts supplies for nearly 90 years, is going out of business, a casualty of the pandemic.
The third-generation family business, which opened in 1936, is scheduled to close on August 31. The store started a liquidation sale on Tuesday.
“It is very difficult. It’s very emotional … It’s just a big family business,” said Barb Rohrbacher, who has worked at the store since she was 10 and is the mother of current store owner Frank Schirzinger.
Rohrbacher’s husband, Tim, helped keep the store open in recent months along with other family members and friends.
Rohrbacher largely blamed the pandemic for the store closings, along with lost sales for major retailers.
In the first summer of COVID-19, sales were cut in half because schools were closed and remote, she said.
“You have already received all the products and the bills are due,” she said. “Suddenly you’re not making any money.”
Then the supply chain problems started.
“It’s hard to deliver things,” Rohrbacher said. “We are still receiving shipments that were ordered a year and a half ago.”
An order of tissue paper made over a year ago arrived last week, for example.
Star Beacon operations date back to 1936
Dave Schirzinger and Pat Maloney founded the store in 1936 in downtown Long Street.
In the 1950s, Maloney sold his share of the business to Schirzinger, who moved it to its current location at 1104 Goodale Blvd., according to the store’s Facebook page.
Schirzinger’s son Phil succeeded his father in the 1980s. He, along with his cousin Brian Maloney and friend Dave Senters, made school supplies and arts and crafts the focus of the store.
Frank Schirzinger, Phil Schirzinger’s son, has been running the business since 2017 after his father’s death. It focuses on early education and daycare materials.
Business picks up as the liquidation sale begins
The store’s parking lot was packed Tuesday as a steady stream of customers took baskets of pens, colored pencils, paper, educational toys and games, art supplies and other products to the register.
Workers lugged boxes of items purchased by shoppers to their cars.
One after another, customers express their feelings to family and employees.
“Star Beacon has been a staple for us,” said Kathy Rayner, director of the Care After School program, which provides services to students in Worthington. “It’s sad.”
Kay Trout of Urbana has been coming to the store for 20 to 25 years. She is a kindergarten teacher who also leads professional development courses for teachers.
After learning the store will be closing, she heads there first thing Tuesday morning, where customers start lining up 30 minutes before the store opens at 10 a.m.
“It’s just a wonderful place,” she said. “I’m so sad they had to close the doors.”
Trout said the Star Beacon carries unusual, hard-to-find items.
“You never know what you’re going to find,” she said.
“I would tell everybody about it,” she said. “Definitely a teacher favorite.”
Every year the store had a Christmas sale. It will open a back room in early November, putting up a red Christmas tree and filling shelves with toys, puzzles, books and other items for children.
The store plans to extend showroom hours to give customers time to shop, including on the upcoming sales tax public holiday Sunday of the first weekend in August.
The store never recovered from the pandemic
Rohrbacher said the family began talking in March about closing the store.
“We kept hoping things would turn around,” she said. “We tried different things to make it work.”
Sales have not yet returned to pre-Covid levels, suggesting that at least some schools are moving away from the organized sales they used to hold for students who needed school supplies.
“It’s very difficult for a small family business to compete with the big box stores,” she said.