Business student

Trumbull’s Next Chapter Books Boosts Downtown Business

TRUMBULL – When Next Chapter Books opened at 2 Daniels Farm in the spring, there were high hopes that it would be a community center where people could meet, browse the shelves and even grab a cup of coffee or a pastry .

This goal is even reflected in the store’s slogan, which appears on t-shirts and other marketing materials – “Meet Me at NCB”.

So far, the new venture has lived up to those ambitions.

“We have people who come to meet here and hang out,” said Robin Luther, a special educator in Trumbull’s ELITE program. “They love the interaction with the students.”

ELITE – which stands for Educating Learners in Transition Environments – provides services, including vocational training and work opportunities, to students with disabilities. Students in the program make up the bulk of Next Chapter Books’ staff.

Many said the store is already achieving its goals of providing valuable work experience for students and rejuvenating the Trumbull Center plaza in which it sits. But there are hopes that Next Chapter will get a bump in the next few months, due to a number of factors.

One is that the store recently added hours on Saturdays. The store was open Monday to Friday but, from September 16, it will also be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

“I think the Saturday schedules they are planning will help attract people who can’t get there during the week,” said Rina Bakalar, Trumbull’s director of economic and community development.

Next Chapter also received a recent financial boost, in the form of $2,500 donated by the city.

The town received the CT United Ride money – the 60-mile-long motorcycle 9/11 tribute race and fundraiser – because Trumbull was considered the town with the most spectators and patriotic support on along the 2021 race route.

After receiving the award, Trumbull could donate the money to a charity of his choice, and at the recent education board meeting, first selector Vicki Tesoro announced that the $2,500 was going to the ELITE program. to help support Next Chapter Books.

“As you know, this student-run enterprise gives our ELITE students the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the community while giving students the opportunity to learn lifelong skills,” Tesoro said during the meeting.

ELITE students have worked in a variety of locations over the years, including FYE at Westfield Trumbull Mall and some of the local schools. But Next Chapter was intended to give them the opportunity to learn more “real world” business skills, such as operating a cash register and interacting with the public.

Lee Ann Schlatter – whose daughter Jenna, 21, is an ELITE student working at Next Chapter – said she was impressed with the responsibility given to the students and the skills they learned while working there.

While she said other companies that provide job opportunities for ELITE students have been helpful, they may not have prepared students for the world of work the way the bookstore has.

“I really think this is a launch program where they can learn and practice the necessary skills that they will need as they move forward in the world,” said Lee Ann Schlatter, who is also president of Friends of ELITE. , a non-profit organization that supports ELITE and its students.

Both Luther and John Wrobel, Program Manager at ELITE, said they have noticed an improvement in students’ job skills since the store opened.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in student skills,” Luther said. “A lot of the tasks that we teach individually in the store, the students now do them independently.”

In addition to helping students, Next Chapter Books also aimed to restore the image of the Trumbull Center plaza on which it sits. The square, which consists of several buildings, has several empty storefronts, but projects such as Next Chapter Books were to give it a boost.

In the short time it was open, Luther and others said the store did quite well both in providing students with a full work experience and in energizing the Trumbull Center.

Luther and Wrobel said the bookstore has offered several community events since opening, such as appearances by local authors, story times and book club meetings. Bakalar said the store is “a great addition to the Trumbull Center” and has growth potential.

“Went there the other day between meetings for a cookie and a drink,” she said. “There was a live podcast with an author going on. Two local residents were having coffee and catching up. Several customers stopped by to shop. As people find out about Next Chapter, they support it. “

Lee Ann Schlatter agreed.

“I think (the store is) just a wonderful benefit to our community as a whole,” she said. “I think they have a strong foothold here.”

For more information on Next Chapter books, visit https://www.nextchapterbooksct.com/. To learn more about supporting the store or ELITE, visit https://friendsofelite.org/.