Back To School Local Shopping Guide

by | Sep 1, 2021

Norfolk Public Schools starts back next week as summer vacation comes to a close for adolescents throughout the city. Most of the ‘back to school’ shopping gets done on the upcoming tax-free weekend in August, but we all know it isn’t quite that simple. Those kiddos are going to show up on the first day thinking they’re as prepared as they possibly can be, and sure enough, they’re going to come home with some more school supply requests. 


Now when those kids are looking for those extra special last-minute items, you could head over to one of those big-box retailers (yuck). Or, you could put in that bit of extra effort and try to find what your kid needs from a local shop. Not only will you put some bucks back into the local economy, but you’ll probably be sending them off to class with something super unique. 


Since you’re doing the damn fine work of even considering shopping local, we’ll do you a solid and help you find what you need. Here are a few recommendations on places to grab some school supplies for the new year. 


Before we get into the good stuff, though, I want to call out our NPS teachers. 94% of teachers in the U.S. buy classroom supplies out of pocket, and Norfolk teachers are no exception. Here are two easy ways for you to pitch in: First, head over to Donors Choose, where you can find projects by local teachers that need extra funding. You can filter down to projects with matching funds or only projects at schools with more than half the students from low-income households. Second, email your school board representatives! Click this link to drum up a new email and let them know that teachers need a boost in salary. According to a recent article, Virginia teachers rank 50th for pay in the country. That’s right dead last in teacher pay. Click this link to drum up a new email and let them know that teachers need a boost in salary.



Norfolk Stationery 


At 115 years old, Norfolk Stationery is an institution in this city and stocks a ton of your typical office supplies. The store is slightly more focused on the adult office professional, but there’s plenty of overlap with the classroom. Norfolk Stationery carries 6,000 office products and can get another 14,000 next-day delivery. There’s a phenomenal writing selection from basic pens and pencils to full-on quill and ink wells. Papers, notebooks, journals, rubber bands, erasers, you name it. All the classics are in stock, in addition to more niche items. And suppose your little one (or you) is particularly interested in the language arts. In that case, Norfolk Stationery sits conveniently next to the Muse Writers Center, so be sure to grab a class calendar. 




Kitsch on Colley Ave features various products from over 200 artisans. There’s not a ton here that teachers typically require, but there are three things in particular that are worth scooping up. The first are some journals. Kitsch has a few sizes of journals for jotting down notes and passing them across class to your crush or best friend. The second are thank you cards. Kitsch carries a ton of custom thank you cards. You don’t need us to tell you that it has been a weird year for teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, and everyone else at the schools. Grab a couple of thank you cards and let folks their hard work isn’t going unnoticed. Lastly, and most certainly not least, stickers. Kitsch has multiple shelves of stickers by local artists. Those stickers will be perfect for decorating any notebook, pencil case, or lunch box. 


Bernstein’s Gallery


Serving the area for over 50 years, Bernstein’s Gallery is another Norfolk classic. You probably know them best for their custom framing, which is seriously top-notch. However, most folks don’t know they’ve got a section of the store dedicated to art supplies as well. Stop in and pick up those art class essentials to keep your kid creative and well-stocked. 


757 Creative Reuse 


Are you looking for some extra crafting supplies at a discount? 757 Creative Reuse has you covered. The selection changes daily as new donations come in, but there’s typically a steady supply of yarn, fabric, threads, buttons, glues, crayons, colored pencils, markers, paints, and more. This wonderful organization is a non-profit and one we cover more in-depth here. 


Russell’s Music World


Music and culture classes are critically underfunded these days, which is dismaying news. If your kid ends up having a music class on their schedule, there’s a perfect local shop to support. Russell’s Music World is one of the best-curated music stores in town. Russell started out being the king of drums, but nowadays, you can find new and vintage instruments of all varieties in his store on Washington Park off of Colonial. Pick up the school-age classic recorder, some drum sticks, or maybe a tambourine, and bring on the tunes. 


Hamilton Perkins


Hamilton Perkins has been getting quite a bit of press attention lately. There’s something that just reels you in about the shop. They collect used billboard vinyl, recycled water bottles, and pineapple leaves and turn them into seriously high fashion bags. The big-ticket item here is their backpacks. Each is unique as they’re made from recycled billboard vinyl and feature a glimpse of their former lives. There are multiple options for that trusty and tough after-school sports bag for the athletically inclined, from big duffles to smaller drawstrings. Every student this year needs to have a mask on hand, and Hamilton Perkins keeps clean, classy, and fashionable face masks on the shelves. 


East Coast Bicycles, Hund’s ReCycle Factory, and Local Bike Shop


Biking to school might not be as fashionable as it used to be, but it’s making a comeback. Norfolk has 34 elementary schools, so the chances are that your kid’s schools are reasonably close to home. You can skip the car drop-off and pickup drama and have them autonomously transport themselves to school. It’s a win-win-win: More active kids, fewer carbon emissions, and less stress on mom and dad’s schedule. Hit up one of three bike shops in the city and hook the kids up. 


And like seriously, you can click this link to drum up a new email and let Norfolk School Board know that teachers need a boost in salary. It’s just a canned email, add some personal flavor to it. 


Paul Stetson Rice

Chelsea, NFK

Paul is the creator of He was born and raised in Norfolk, graduated from Virginia Tech, and narrowly avoided law school. Chat with him about economics, entrepreneurship, hip-hop, and hiking. When he's not working on five different projects, you'll catch him sharing a beer with friends at a local brewery.

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