There was much cause for celebration on Main Street last weekend. The Vincent Smith General Store has been in preparation for more than a year to open its doors on Saturday, May 7, with a glorious ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony, hosted by the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce.
The store, at 189 Main St., is an extension of the special ed. school’s Vocational Explorations in Education Program (VEEP). High school students, particularly those who might not be college-bound, supplement their regular curriculum by exploring various vocational experiences.
Before the pandemic began, Vincent Smith students were receiving a simulation experience, observing how businesses work in the community.
“We would bring the students out to the shops to observe the types of jobs that people have, to explore the opportunities and see what they might want to do when they finish school if they choose not to go to college,” Lynda Bekore, Vincent Smith School director of communications said. “Once COVID came and everything shut down we realized we could actually do this for ourselves. We could support our students by opening up our own store.”
Bekore said the store offers the students a great opportunity in a supportive environment, to self-motivate instead of simply observing how a business operates.
“Our students are excited at the prospect of gaining hands-on job skills in their very own store,” John Baldi, the head of Vincent Smith School said. “By interacting with customers and learning the ins and outs of retail, they’ll gain invaluable experience that will serve them long after they leave Vincent Smith.”
The store is a small boutique, perfect for managing all things that make a retail store successful. Inside, you will find home decor, toys, housewares, general merchandise, seasonal goods and locally made wares.
“The students will learn customer service, retail, product management, store upkeep and maintenance, keeping shelves stocked, supply skills and so much more,” Bekore said.
The store hours had not been set prior to press time, however, Bekore said that the store would primarily be set in conjunction with the students’ schedules.
Presently there are seven high school students in the vocational program, but Vincent Smith operates on a rolling admissions basis, accepting students throughout the whole year. Students come from across the whole island, including the five boroughs.
“We all look forward to this new way of being involved in the warm and vibrant Port Washington community,” Baldi said. The school is a member of the chamber of commerce and is already making preparations for its 2024 centennial celebration, coincidentally also getting its start right on Main Street nearly 100 years ago.
The Vincent Smith School specializes in students in grades 1-12 with learning difficulties like dyslexia, or those seeking small classes and support for School Reluctance or ADHD.
Vincent Smith emphasizes academic success, differentiated instruction, a strong home/school connection and college and career counseling in small, supportive classes.
Approximately 85 percent of graduates go on to college and have achieved successful careers in the arts, media, education and entrepreneurship.
Vincent Smith students learn how to learn, while developing essential social and academic skills necessary for their success beyond school. Where appropriate, students are provided in-house related services for speech, reading, counseling and occupational therapy.
Vincent Smith School is located at 322 Port Washington Blvd. in Port Washington. Visit www.vincentsmithschool.org or call 516-365-4900 for more information.