Meridian Industrial

A 2 Z SCIENCE & LEARNING STORE

7/31/2019 | Stephanie Trombley

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Andre and Devon Boulay, owners of A2Z Science and Learning Store in Northampton, believe that play is important.

“Play is important and no matter how old you get, that’s a big part of what makes life awesome. Play and learn by play.” Andre said.

The couple became the new owners of A2Z Science and Learning Store four years ago after purchasing the business from founders Jack and Priscilla Finn. The store first opened in Thornes Marketplace and moved to its current King Street location about 20 years ago. The store has been a staple to the Northampton area for over three decades.

Go Local met with Andre and Devon to discuss what A2Z Science and Learning Store is all about (and to get distracted by shelves of nostalgia-inducing toys like Lincoln Logs and board games.)

Both Andre and Devon have past experience with the shop. Andre began working at A2Z Science and Learning Store in high school. Devon started in college.

“We had a lot of history. We had a really good background in retail and toys and business and it all just kind of came together. [The previous owners] were looking to try and pass the business on to people who could be successful with it while they felt like it was still at its prime. So they offered us a good starting point to continue to evolve it,” Andre explained.

“It started based more on science and they sold a lot more science supplies, rocks, minerals, telescopes and stuff like that. As time happened, it evolved into more of an all-around toy store. We have a little bit of everything and there’s still a lot of really cool rocks and cool science kits,” Andre explained.

The storefront is more than meets the eye. Andre said that upon walking in, most customers don’t realize how large the space is inside. “People don’t realize how big the store is until they walk in and we’re lucky enough to have such a good amount of floor space that we break the store into 20 categories. It’s amazing how much we cram into this space,” Andre said.

The floors and walls of A2Z Science and Toys are filled with toys of all shapes and sizes. Among the 20 categories mentioned by Andre are books, construction, remote control, outdoor, plush, baby, music, arts and crafts, dress up, games, science, robots, Legos and fossils and minerals.

“A really cool part is that there are not many places that you walk in and see all different toys, especially the classics. We try really hard to have both. You want to have things that surprise you and things that are exciting that you haven’t touched before and you also still want ‘I remember having this when I was growing up,’ and we try to get that,” Andre said.

Andre said he and Devon share a passion with the store’s previous owners for creating a safe place for kids.

“Both the previous owners and ourselves felt really strongly about having a safe place for kids to be a kid. It’s never been more important because a lot of those places have disappeared.

There’s not toy stores on every corner necessarily and many towns don’t have a local toy store. I think giving a place for kids to explore and know that learning can be both fun and that you learn through play is a big part of our core message both to children and adults,” Andre said.

In addition to the sale of toys and learning products at A2Z Science and Learning Store, the shop also hosts a Yo-Yo School program. The free classes, which take place every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., seek to teach children aged seven and older the skill of playing with a yo-yo.

Andre is also the owner of YoYoExpert, an online community resource for yo-yo fans to learn and purchase new yo-yos.

“It’s a big part of what makes us special. We’ve got a whole team of yo-yo players that go around and compete at the world yo-yo contest. That’s just always been a big part of what makes us, us. A lot of people come in and learn. It’s all free too, so it’s a really cool way to interact with the community and get to know the families and the kids. We love it,” Andre said.

Devon shared that she enjoys seeing the curiosity exhibited by customers, both young and old, at the store. “I like curiosity. The kids are curious and want to try out the toys. Sometimes it’s fun because the parent won’t want to leave the store because they are too busy playing and they realize this really is for all ages. Sometimes people think toy stores are just for little kids and they’re really not,” Devon said.

Devon continued, “I look at it as a place to clear your mind and possibly get inspired. Just to show the importance of play and take time with your kids away from screens and just realize play is super important and part of development for kids. It’s just a really fun place to feel safe.”

When asked which toys are their favorite in the store, the pair laughed. “We always ask that question at the end of job interviews,” Devon said with a smile.

For Andre, it was a no brainer. “For me, it’s yo-yos. They’re my all-time favorite toy. It’s such a core part of our DNA and what makes us so unique. It’s such a great way to connect to people. Almost everybody has a story with a yo-yo at one point in their life. I like the fact that it’s the most classic toy there is but it’s also such a modern toy and most people aren’t aware of how much you can do with it. That’s really neat. It’s almost like you can re-introduce them to something,” Andre explained.

Devon chose a childhood favorite. “I’m big into the arts and crafts area. I liked crafting when I was little, so I really like the crafts,” Devon said.

While yo-yos, arts and crafts are Andre and Devon’s personal favorites, Andre said board games have been a recent hit at the store. “Games right now have been huge for us. Right now, there isn’t another game store in town unfortunately, which is a bummer. But we’ve continued to see an influx of people looking for games and the staff is so good with games right now. We’ve taken a lot of time and energy to go through everything. We’ve got really good games and we’re always playing them,” Andre said.

As Andre and Devon continue to make A2Z Science and Learning Store their own, Andre said the store’s goal would always remain the same.

“We always want people to come out and say, ‘man, that was really fun.’

FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT A2ZSCIENCE.COM OR CALL 413-586-1611

A2Z SCIENCE AND LEARNING STORE IS LOCATED AT 57 KING STREET IN NORTHAMPTON

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON YOYOEXPERT, VISIT YOYOEXPERT.COM

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