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November 2001

Science store ready for holiday festivities

Where can you find holiday ornaments that look like snowflakes, icicles, the sun, or the moon? How about such stocking stuffers as seeds of Knowledge, a small magnification kit?

The science store offers a range of products, including books, videos, mugs, hand-painted tiles, and the colorful Galileo Liquid Thermometer. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

The NCAR Science Store is gearing up for its second holiday season. It's filling its popular Mesa Lab and weather-scene mugs with chocolates and ornaments. Also available are a number of party favors and stocking stuffers that cost less than $3, as well as books, videos, apparel, and science tools and kits. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, the store will operate a satellite retail area in the atrium of FL2 in addition to its main ML location. The store is also offering free gift wrapping.

"The summer is our busiest time with tourists, but December is our single busiest month of retail sales," says store manager Heidi Lewis (E&O). "Many people do their holiday shopping here. They find that the gifts have more value because of the aspect of learning that the items offer."

The holiday season aside, the store has expanded beyond its original line of atmosphere-themed items to offer a range of general-science and local-interest products.

The NCAR Science Store staff includes Heidi Lewis, Eileen Carpenter, and Mary Ramunno-Akey. Other staffers, not in the photo, are Betty Bloom and Barbara Kelly. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

In addition to a variety of weather stations and books on climate, visitors can also find hiking guides to Colorado, science books in Spanish, horseshoe-shaped magnets, videos on volcanoes and other natural phenomena, tote bags embroidered with images of the Mesa Lab, and handmade jewelry. Items range in price from a 50-cent rainbow peephole (which, to the viewer, makes objects appear in rainbow colors) to a $550 professional wireless weather station. Coming this month: microfleece jackets for men and women.

"You usually can't find this collection of materials in one place," Heidi says. "For enthusiasts of the sciences, and especially the atmospheric sciences, the store provides a wealth of choices."

The science store, supported by UCAR's general fund, opened in June 2000. It is generating increasing sales and, once it begins to turn a profit, will give its earnings to Friends of UCAR. In the meantime, the store is lending a dash of color and a collection of educational materials to the much-visited exhibits in ML.

Boosting its presence, the store last spring added a small play area for children, with puzzles and books.

"The store certainly creates a bright spot in the lobby, and I think it's wonderful that the products Heidi develops complement the exhibits and tours," says E&O associate director Susan Foster. "We think it's a fine way to extend the educational content of our work to a wide variety of audiences."

Visitors say they appreciate the store's products. "I think it's cool," said Margaret Williams, a Boulder resident browsing through the store on a recent afternoon. "I can see bringing the grandkids up here and getting their reaction."

And some hikers, coming into the building on weekends, have been pleasantly surprised to see the store. "Many say they'll be back when they have their credit cards with them," says Heidi.

Among the store's most popular items are ML mugs (a 500-mug shipment sold out in nine months), children's science books, adult weather books, and a striking product called Galileo's Liquid Thermometer that tells the temperature with brightly colored floats. Heidi, who has to shoehorn items into the small lobby space, is phasing out some of the solar-powered executive desk toys, which have been less popular.

On the other hand, she's added single-use, recyclable cameras because of a number of requests for them.

"I use employee and visitor feedback in determining changes in the product mix," Heidi says.

She began selling horseshoe magnets at the suggestion of a mother trying to help her child with science projects, and she added local hiking guides at the suggestion of an employee. Heidi finds other products through science stores, catalogs, networking with counterparts, and museum-store association trade shows.

"What's associated with all these products is our goal of stimulating creative thought," Heidi explains, "which can help inspire more of the good in what humans have to offer."

• David Hosansky

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UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes Monthly > November 2001 Search

Edited by David Hosansky, hosansky@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Thu Dec 20 16:57:22 MST 2001