Shop where teachers get wholesale supplies

I recently discovered the source of the whimsical materials used to construct one of my favorite works of art.

The white canvas, which hangs in my cubicle at work, is smeared with teal glitter paint and accented with glued-on feathers and plastic gems. My 4-year-old daughter made the masterpiece at her preschool.

The teachers purchase their cheerful supplies, including bags of glimmering gems and jars of glitter, at wholesale prices from the Star Beacon Product Co. in Grandview Heights.

Founded in 1936 in Columbus, the business sells arts, crafts and office supplies to local schools and daycare centers. Customers also can visit the store at 1104 W. Goodale Blvd. to get the same deals from the second-generation, family-owned business.

I made my first visit to Star Beacon during my lunch hour to see if I could find an educational toy for one of my daughter’s classmates. Entering the store felt like returning to the now defunct Yankee Trader, a landmark party and novelty store that closed in 2010 after 44 years of business in downtown Columbus.

Although smaller, Star Beacon offers the same type of warehouse environment, with bulk items stocked on shelves in a dizzying array of strange, but wonderful merchandise.

I found bags of plastic googly eyes, pipe cleaners and yarn pompons, just like the stuff I’ve seen at Rosie’s preschool.

I also found items that brought back memories of my childhood art classes – reams of colorful construction paper, sheets of felt, boxes of popsicle sticks and bags of Styrofoam balls.

In addition to bulk items, Star Beacon carries a small selection of gift items, such as a line of Melissa & Doug products, making my gift-seeking outing a success with an extra helping of nostalgia.

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Impromptu outing at Easton turns into toy-making adventure

A recent, impromptu family outing to the mall surprisingly turned into a splendid, all-American adventure.

Our outing began on a rainy Saturday afternoon, a day somewhere between our two children’s spring birthdays. We wanted to do something special for Rosie and Max as a way to jointly celebrate their births.

A fitting activity, we thought, was to give “life” to a new toy for each child at the Build-A-Bear Workshop at Easton Town Center in Columbus. The store is one of two in central Ohio and among hundreds located worldwide. The retailer, headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., allows customers to customize their own stuffed animals. Its motto is “Where best friends are made.”

Rosie and Max started the process by selecting un-stuffed animals from barrels. Rosie, almost 5 years old, went straight for a purple bear that’s fur is decorated with colorful peace signs. She’d been eying it for a while. Three-year-old Max took longer deciding but ultimately settled on a light-brown bear with curly fur that slightly resembles himself.

Rosie and Max hugged their lifeless toy skins as they waited in line to stuff them with the white fluff that swirled around in a machine like cotton candy. A kind worker helped them pump the fluff into their bears, allowing them to step on the machine’s pedal. They also selected and kissed little red hearts that were stuck inside the bears before they were stitched up.

Rosie and Max then made birth certificates and chose outfits for their new friends, “Brownie” and “Billa.” Brownie got an Ohio State getup and Billa got a billowy pink dress and rain gear.

Each bear with accessories cost about $50.

All the bear building made us hungry. We popped across the mall’s hallway into the California Pizza Kitchen. The casual restaurant chain specializes in thin, crispy pizza, such as artichoke and spinach. It also offers a fine kids menu. The Curly Mac ‘N’ Cheese, $5.50, is far-better fare than most mac-and-cheese options we’ve found at other restaurants.

Mike and I sipped glasses of wine as we watched the kids enjoy their lunch with their new bear friends.

Eager not to end the fun, we finished our outing with ice cream at Graeter’s, a regional chain founded in Cincinnati, Ohio. The store is located at Easton near the entrance to the movie theater. We ordered a banana split, which disappeared quickly with four of us diving in.

It was the perfect ending to a family outing that garnered our children two new friends.

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