Learning Tree to close at year’s end

November 19, 2018

BRADLEY — Think of Skip and Rita Kanosky as graduates.

The Bourbonnais couple, owners of the educational supply store The Learning Tree since July 1987, will close their doors for the final time Dec. 31.

After some 31 years in business at 640 W. Broadway St., Bradley, the business will close, in large part because of the shifting shopping habits of today’s teachers.

“These are changing times,” said Rita Kanosky, 68. “There are internet sales, younger teachers doing things online, teachers not doing bulletin boards any longer.”

In other words: School is out.

The metro area was once home to two independent teaching supply stores, Tools For Schools along North Fifth Avenue in Kankakee and The Learning Tree. When the calendar turns to Jan. 1, 2019, there will be none. Tools For Schools closed about six years ago.

“These types of stores are closing all over the country,” Skip, 68, acknowledged. “We’ve just hung in there a little longer than most.”

The 1968 graduates of Bishop McNamara Catholic High School said they began seeing a noticeable decline in sales three to four years ago.

When the Kanoskys and the late Nancy Shronts, Rita’s sister, opened the store in summer of 1987, they never had a target date as to when they might step away. Shronts died in November 2017 following a battle with cancer.

“We never thought of closing,” Rita said. “This was something we really enjoyed.”

She said they soon began to know hundreds of area teachers by their first names.

Some of the same customers who came into the store those first years had remained loyal throughout the store’s run. However, as 30 years passed, those loyal teachers have retired. The new teachers have not found their way to the store.

Coming to grips with this decision has been anguishing for Rita.

“It’s been hard, really hard,” she said. “There were many days of hard days for me to come to that really hard decision. We would have kept going if sales would have kept up.”

But they haven’t.

“I haven’t gotten rich doing this, but I’ve sure made a lot of friends — a lot of good friends,” Rita said.

Now, however, the Kanoskys, parents of three grown children, have four grandchildren with whom they want to spend more time.

For Skip, a retired 36-year Peotone school teacher, traveling will be in their future. That is if he can get Rita into the vehicle. She notes she is more of a homebody.

Once the business closes, the 3,000-square-foot building which they purchased in 1992 will be put up for sale. Skip will continue the laminating service even if he has to operate it in their Bourbonnais home.

The going-out-of-business sale begins Monday.

“We like to think we’ve had an important part of teachers’ classrooms, that we’ve helped the teachers help their students, that what they purchased here helped someone learn,” Skip said.

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