Get to know the owner of Fundamentals in Delaware.
Talk about turning lemons into lemonade - Tami Furlong first got the idea to open Fundamentals, a parent-teacher book and learning-materials store, in 1988 when her young daughter, Caitlin, was hospitalized with pneumonia.
"I wanted to keep her busy with popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners and other craftsy things and even workbooks, but I didn't have time to make the trip down to Columbus," said the longtime Delaware resident.
After a subsequent conversation with a teacher friend who also bemoaned the lack of local school and art supplies, Furlong decided to start a business that would provide them to the Delaware community. Ninety days later she opened her shop, and 23 years later, she's still going strong.
Has the inventory in your store changed much through the years?
Oh, it's very different now than it was in the beginning. But that's been the key to staying in business, to be very flexible. We have a much better mix now. The children's books have become big part of what we do. And we've really expanded the toys and the arts and crafts supplies.
The books really do seem to be an important part of the experience here, and I know you host authors' visits. Who are some of the authors you've had in?
We just had Amy Krouse Rosenthal (author of the "Little Pea," "Little Hoot" and "Little Oink" books). We've had Rosemary Wells of "Max and Ruby" and Jon Scieszka ("The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!" and "The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales").
You know that our family has always hit you up for unusual birthday presents to give other kids. What are some your favorite items?
I really love the Potato Chip Science (kit and book). It's just packaged so cleverly. And the books, they're really my favorite. I've become such an avid reader of young adult books. There are so many good ones now.
Fundamental's official title calls it a "Parent-Teacher Store." What would you say is the ratio of parents to teachers who shop here?
It's probably half and half, although it used to be more teachers. Now we see a lot of parents. Grandparents, too. Maybe it's because I'm a grandparent now, but I notice how many of them come here to get things for their grandkids.
I would imagine with all the learning materials you see quite a few homeschoolers.
They've always been a big part of our business, but it's interesting. Homeschooling used to be kind of a quiet thing around here. But now there are all kinds of reasons for homeschooling and we see a lot more people who are homeschooling.