DOBSON — The newest upscale boutique in Dobson opened Wednesday — and it is the very definition of exclusive, as its clientele is limited at any given time to only nine people.
The Cove, with merchandise ranging from candy to video games, sparkly stilettos to sneakers, is located in the newly refurbished basement of The Children’s Center on Prison Camp Road. The artfully curated selection of merchandise is only on offer to the residents of the Children’s Center.
The store and the entire reinvented lower level were launched at an open house early Wednesday afternoon to an invited audience of volunteers, benefactors and community stakeholders. Children’s Center residents got their first look at their updated facilities later when they returned from school.
“The store will be used as a behavior management support tool for the children to prepare them for adult life by teaching budgeting, banking and fiscal responsibility,” according to the Children’s Center and executive director Robin Testerman.
Christie Horton, Children’s Center agency coordinator, said she came up with the idea two years ago.
“I presented the idea to Robin. At first, she looked at me like I was crazy, but then she said, ‘Let’s go for it’. We announced it on Facebook. Then we couldn’t back out.”
In the intervening two years, details of the program were worked out, and help was provided by Lowe’s Helping Heroes, Surry County Schools and other benefactors who donated new merchandise for the store.
“The kids earn an allowance,” said Horton. “If they get good grades and have no issues, they can earn more money. If there are significant behavioral problems, they can lose their allowance. Then once a month, they can come into the store and spend their money.”
The kid’s “money” is not actual cash but funds in a “checking account” which can be used to make purchases in the store. The kids are issued imitation checkbooks and check registers and are taught how to use them.
“We’re teaching them to write checks and to take responsibility for keeping their checkbook balanced,” said Horton. “If they lose their checkbook, there’s a fee to get another one, because, well, that’s how the world works. We charge sales tax, so they learn about sales tax and how it works.”
“When I was in school, we learned these things, and it’s important that we teach these skills to the kids,” added Horton.
Store merchandise ranges from ice cream and drinks all the way to a Playstation priced at $250.
“We’re trying to encourage the kids to save,” said Horton. “To get that Playstation, they’re going to have to save for a while. (Basic monthly allowance is $20.) “We’re teaching the skill of saving up for things you really want or need.”
In addition to The Cove, the rest of the Children’s Center basement got a makeover. The space is divided into modules devoted to music, art, a maker station for building, fitness and technology. Each space is painted a different vibrant color with graphic signage as to its purpose.
“I recruited volunteers from my church to paint,” said Sonia Dickerson, Children’s Center board member who has found more free time to help since retiring from Surry County Schools.
Two of Dickerson’s volunteers, Millennium Charter Academy students Hailey Perry and Grace Philips, were on hand for the open house.
“This was a dream that didn’t become a reality until Lowe’s said, ‘Yes, we’ll help you’,” said Testerman, just before Horton and Neil Cothren, manager of the Mount Airy Lowe’s store, cut the ribbon to The Cove.
After the ribbon was cut, guests toured the store and checked out the rest of the colorful, functional space in what Dickerson said “used to be a basement with a pool table.”
“The kids have been asking what’s going on down here,” said Testerman. “They’re eager to get a look.”
The Children’s Center’s new store is stocked with donated merchandise. Call 336-386-9144 to see how you can help keep the shelves stocked with rewards for the kids.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.