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Treasures in the making

New store offers bargain items and gives Tobinworld students retail experience.

November 15, 2010|By Bill Kisliuk, bill.kisliuk@latimes.com
  • The staff of Tobinworld Treasures, on the grand opening of the store in Glendale on Wednesday. The staff members, made up of students of Tobinworld, were all trained for two weeks about how to be better sales people so they can work in the store and learn how to be good employees so in the future, they can be employed.
The staff of Tobinworld Treasures, on the grand opening… (Tim Berger/Staff…)

Glendale's latest boutique is more than just a spot to find fashionable items at bargain prices. It is a launching pad for teens working to overcome emotional and developmental disabilities.

Last week, the operators of Tobinworld, a school for autistic and developmentally disabled students, opened Tobinworld Treasures, a glittering gift shop where students will get a chance to learn the retail ropes.

Tobinworld Executive Director Judy Weber conceived the idea, picked the items for sale — from leather jackets and costume jewelry to stuffed animals, children's toys and men's watches — and dressed up the building with mirrored walls and an eye-catching black storefront.

She did it, she said, for the 300 students from school districts around Los Angeles County who attend her school.

"I worry about them when they graduate and leave us," Weber said as well-wishers buzzed around the store on opening day.

Tobinworld administrator Aurelia Yamashiro manages the store, supervising teens who get class credit for working one-hour shifts manning the cash register and greeting customers. In all, 26 students have been trained on credit card transactions, cash registers and store operations.

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"The goal is to give vocational training to students so they gain practical experience," Yamashiro said.

Nothing in the store is more than $50, except the leather coats.

"Our prices are very reasonable because we are not really here to make money," Weber said.

On opening day, 10 students in white button-down shirts and matching black ties stood patiently, talking to potential customers.

"I'm kinda nervous since this is my first job," said Jesus Cornejo, 15. "But I really don't mind it."

For some, it was a chance to test the working waters.

"I always thought about working in retail," said Guillermo Ordaz, 15. "You get to meet a lot of interesting people. And you make good pay in some stores."

The idea for the store came from an exchange inside the school where students acquire items with tokens they get for academic and other achievements. Tobinworld also has a one-of-a-kind Baskin-Robbins ice cream store for student use on campus.

Tobinworld Treasures is at 1006 E. Broadway, half a block from campus. The former occupant is Hollywood Music Center, which sells belly-dancing CDs and supplies wholesale and retail.

Hollywood Music Center once used the storefront as a record store, but most recently used it for storage. The business remains open in a building just behind the new boutique.

Tobinworld Treasures is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Proceeds benefit Tobinworld, which also has a campus in Northern California.

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