Panther Pro: A Store That Is More Than Just Hoodies and T-Shirts


Taylen Kowalski

This picture is the entrance to the Panther Pro shop in the SPASH high school.

Taylen Kowalski, Hour 1

The student section roars with cheers as the football team scores a touchdown. This is, in the purest form, school spirit, right? From football games to school musicals to homecoming dances, school spirit is front and center in most high schools. Rarely, however, do students have “spirit” or pride about their school store. At Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH) we would like to see this change.

Located inside of SPASH is the “Panther Pro”, a retail store open to the students and the community. The school store is run by “employees”, who are SPASH students taking business classes. Reid Gust is a business teacher, who oversees the operations at the Panther Pro.

What Does A School Store Have to Offer?

The sole purpose of a school store is to serve the students and the school environment. According to the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) School Store Operating Manual, “School stores are not built for profit”, but rather to help the students. A school store offers school supplies such as pencils and erasers, to provide an option for students who need them. 

Not only can a store provide physical benefits for a student, but it can also be used as an experience builder. The FBLA Manual claims, “A School Store is a considerably under-utilized educational tool”, students learn basic work ethics, such as scheduling shifts and showing up accordingly. Students optimize communication and problem-solving skills while maintaining a professional look. 

When interviewing Reid Gust, the operator of the Panther Pro, he explained the value of a school store for the students. His focus is on giving back to the students “I would love to be able to offer scholarships in the future and be able to incorporate more student involvement and student opportunity.” Gust goes on to explain how extra profit can be put back into the business department “We can buy more supplies for marketing class, where we can enhance the curriculum”. No matter how a school store is set up, it continues to improve the school around it. 

The Up-and-Coming

This year, the Panther Pro is undergoing new and exciting construction. The SPASH population across the school is displaying their anticipation for new changes to come. A senior at SPASH, Vanesa Guizar Meneces, has been a customer in the past at the Panther Pro. She is looking forward to new products, “I would be interested in seeing zip-up jackets or windbreaker items in the store.” Considering the positive experience she had at the Panther Pro in the past, Meneces is excited for what is to come. 

Not only are students excited, but student workers are also eager to incorporate new ideas for the school year. Nora McGuire, a Panther Pro employee,  shared her thoughts on the current visions for this year, “I really hope to reach a broader student body, and see some designs I helped work on being used.” She further discussed the work businesses classes have put in to make new designs and bring in different clothing items. 

New inventory is the highlight of this year for the store, with more variation of clothing items and styles, there is something for everyone. Gust shows his excitement concerning the new inventory and the new designs chosen by students. Not only receiving new inventory, but in a timely manner, he says “Last year we got new inventory a couple of weeks before Christmas, this year we would like to have it by the end of October.” However, Gust is also enthused about pushing sales throughout the year and hitting their target for the Christmas sale. 

Overcoming Adversities 

In the past, the Panther Pro faced some challenges but is working to overcome those.  As is true of many retail establishments, Covid took a toll on the school store. Gust talks about the effects of the pandemic on the store “Covid threw a big wrench, with keeping the school store open, and students couldn’t help, it became mostly teacher ran”. Without student involvement, the store was left in chaos.

Now with students back in school full-time, there is really only one hardship the store faces today, which is consistent scheduling. Scheduling is difficult in many ways, Gust explains some of those barriers “Part of this challenge is students have to sign up outside of class, but when students sign up during off hours we are open during times when no one is walking the halls […] So we want to be open during both lunches, ideally before and after school as well”. This year Gust will continue to push for consistent scheduling, and get students to commit to hours. 

He also mentions the fact students could refuse to work the store, with only their grades being impacted. Unfortunately, student refusal is not uncommon, considering students do not get paid. Overall the Panther Pro has only had a couple of pitfalls, but they will overcome those this year.

 The store has evolved over the years and is continually improving. With all that is coming, the Panther Pro will provide opportunities for the SPASH community. There are exciting visions that will soon be put into action. Efforts towards bringing in on-trend clothes & accessories, greater engagement of student workers, and physical expansion have already led to increased excitement among students in the school. 

With the growth, change, and innovation this student-run store has experienced, the future looks bright. No matter where the store goes from here, there will be one goal in mind: helping to improve experiences for SPASH students and the community, It is the hope of current school store workers that one day the student body will be just as excited to visit the school store as they are when attending other spirit-filled activities.