Swanky Swine store something special in Clearwater - WFLA News Channel 8

Swanky Swine store something special in Clearwater

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CLEARWATER, FL (WFLA) -

Woodlawn Community Academy in Clearwater is home to a special little store with a catchy little name.

"The store is called The Swanky Swine. That stands for fancy pig," explained 16-year-old Academy student Dimitri Tyner.

To the average person it probably looks like little more than a concession stand.

"We sell snacks, drinks and all the good stuff that people like," Tyner said.

But give The Swanky Swine a closer look and you'll see it's something very different. Students who man the business all have something in common. They each have some developmental delay whether it's autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or Downs Syndrome.

Teacher Jennifer Tollefson got the idea for the store after realizing her students faced some interesting challenges.

"I realized they didn't even know, a lot of them,  the difference between the quarters and nickels and dimes, and so we just went all the way back to square one," Tollefson said.

She said putting kids in charge of a small business where they were actually making decisions, handling money and interacting with other student customers, made all the difference.

"When we started the store, and we were actually using the money and knew that two quarters can buy more than two dimes and different things like that, that's when it really started to click," Tollefson explained.

Since the start of the school year, The Swanky Swine has become a student favorite every Wednesday and Friday. 

Allison Tremblay, a 19-year-old senior with Downs Syndrome, says lately customers have been clambering for one very specific item.

"I think the hot chocolate is the most popular because the weather is so cold out, they want something warm to drink," Tremblay said.

The point of The Swanky Swine isn't just to sell snacks and fill the hot chocolate niche at Woodlawn Community Academy. The business has much more important implications.

"It was just important for us to give them skills that they can take out into the real world so you know they could actually shop for themselves. They could go to the store and pick out what they want and know what they can afford and what they can't afford," Tollefson said.

Students say the store gives them confidence in their own abilities and has even helped them form certain opinions about people who may look at them and only see disabilities.

"I'd say it's their loss," Tremblay said. "I think we're the lucky ones." 

Tollefson hopes to eventually expand The Swanky Swine to include baked goods prepared by her students. If that goes as well as she expects, she's hoping to eventually create a catering business to give the students a viable money-making opportunity.

 

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