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Corey Ackerman, right, manager of Deja Blue, talks with two of the store’s student workers, Felisha Fitchett, center, and Grothen. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
The timing is coincidental but perfect. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of the old portion of the La Grande High School building complex. It is thus fitting that a student-run used clothing store celebrating the past recently opened at LHS.
Deja Blue, located on the east end of the original portion of LHS, does not carry 60-year-old clothing, but it does wake up echoes of the past. Black and white posters of long-ago entertainment icons like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and Elvis Presley brighten the store’s walls, helping create an atmosphere fitting for a used clothing store, one with close to 1,000 items donated by faculty and staff.
“It is coming together better than we had hoped,” said Heidi Schultz, a special education teacher at LHS who helped start Deja Blue, which opened earlier this fall.
The store is run primarily by special education students at LHS and some non-special ed students. It is giving students a chance to learn skills that will help them in the real world, including how to handle money and take inventory, said Corey Ackerman, a Youth Transition Program specialist at LHS who also helped found the store and now manages it.
“(LHS students) are learning job skills. They will be ready for the future,” Ackerman said.
Schultz seconds what Ackerman said.
“They are learning the ins and outs of customer service,” Schultz said.
The store is also meant to give LHS students low-cost clothing options. Most items are $1 and $2 and very few top $5.
Deja Blue will make it easy for students from low-income families to get warm winter clothing. It also has items for economy-minded students who need to purchase clothing for formal occasions like the prom.
There is also work attire, which students could wear when being interviewed for a job.
Macy Fuller-Smith, a sophomore who is not connected to the store, said that Deja Blue is an excellent addition to the high school.
“It is a pretty cool place to come and look for things. I have heard a lot of my friends talk about the nice clothes it has,” the sophomore said.
Some special education students work at both the coffee shop, the Taste of the Tiger, which has been operating at the school for many years, and Deja Blue.
The big difference between operating Deja Blue and the coffee shop is one of urgency.
“People at the Taste of the Tiger want to be served now, but (at Deja Blue) they may look at something and come back three or four times before they buy it,” Ackerman said.
A number of new additions may be made to the store in the future. The additions may include a vintage clothing section and displays of old LHS yearbooks.
The name Deja Blue was created by Schultz earlier this year. It is a play on “deja vu’’ and incorporates the school’s primary color.