It seems like just yesterday you were freeing yourself from the chains of the car line, speeding away with the windows rolled down, belting out Alice Cooper for all the neighborhood watch to hear. “Schooooooooool’s…OUT…for…sum-MER.”
And now, one glance at your calendar strikes fear in your heart only to be rivaled by the reminder of a science project due tomorrow. It’s back to school time!
Whether you love trying on new clothes and picking out your brand new monogrammed backpack, or you avoid the endless aisles of discounted glue sticks like the stomach virus, I’ve got the scoop for you on all things back to school in Decatur.
But this isn’t your typical big box back to school guide. I won’t be directing you to the chain discount store with one stop convenience shopping for lunch meat and juice, along with your socks and underwear. Nope, not here. Every single business I will tell you about is a local mom and pop shop that is owned and operated by the wonderful citizens of the River City. And when you’re done shopping, I’ve got three ways for you to help local children in need get a great start to their new school year too!
Backpacks & School Supplies
The Paper Chase
706 Bank Street, Decatur
Sure, this is where all the posh brides-to-be and their well-dressed friends go to pick out beautiful party invitations and monogrammed stationary, but this Bank Street paperie is so much more than invitations (although they have the best for every occasion from a black tie soiree to a backyard BBQ, and a staff that is highly trained to provide the perfect wording). From backpacks, totes, and nap mats to coffee cups, pencils, and planners, the Paper Chase has something for everyone from preschool to college age to spruce up their back to school supplies. It’s also a great place to find teacher’s gifts! And speaking of college kids, the Paper Chase has an extensive selection of “clear ware” accessories, a necessity for carrying your essentials into NCAA football games.
The Learning Tree
1820 6th Avenue SE, Decatur
The Learning Tree has been a staple since I was a kid and was one of the few places in town that sold Mr. Smelly markers, a must-have for any middle school girl who needed to write colorful notes to her best friends. Whether you’re a teacher preparing a classroom or a parent who wants to be more involved this year, the Learning Tree in Gateway Shopping Center has everything from bulletin board supplies to the most beloved children’s books.
Gloria’s Good Health
1820 6th Avenue SE, Decatur
While you’re in the Gateway Shopping Center, venture over to Gloria’s Good Health to stock up on vitamins for the whole family and healthy snacks for lunches and soccer practices. Shopping without the kids in tow? Moms can enjoy browsing environmentally friendly skin care and even treat themselves to a slimming body wrap or a massage! Check out their in-store calendar for educational seminars on keeping the entire family healthy, and make sure to pick up a Wild Card for special member discounts.
1111 Corsbie Street SE, Decatur
Chel’Den’s is your one stop boutique for teacher’s gifts, fun jewelry, colorful bags, and many other cute back to school “supplies” you never knew you needed (but you do, of course, because of the cuteness).
Clothes for the Littles
1113 Corsbie Street SE, Decatur
Whenever I shop consignment sales, I often find myself comparing them to Sprouts, and rarely does a store ever measure up. Sprouts carries new and gently used clothing and shoes for all ages from baby to big kids. Brands you know and love from boutiques and department stores at affordable prices that won’t wreck the budget. You can always trust that the owner and her staff have sorted through consigner’s items with a keen eye for style and quality. And you won’t find any stains or hanging threads here, that’s for certain! Plus they carry lots of big ticket baby items, gear and toys. Make sure to sign up for their text alerts to receive coupons for discounts as steep as 20% off!
712 Bank Street, Decatur
You may think Cloud 9 is just for baby registries, but I assure you all the best dressed preschoolers shop at this perfectly curated boutique on Bank Street. Alongside a wide selection of baby gear, including dishes, bottles, strollers, and slings, you’ll find a fabulous collection of classic children’s clothing and accessories for all age “littles.” Did I mention they also have toys???!!! Follow them on social media for special sales and giveaways.
Goody Two Shoes
123 2nd Avenue SE, Decatur
This stylish store has plenty for big sisters and moms, but head to the back and you’ll find the most adorable clothes for the littles on 2nd Avenue! Shop the trendiest styles at prices that won’t break the bank.
Clothes for the Big Kids
Including parents, so Mom and Dad look sharp for PTA!
115 Johnston Street SE, Decatur
Have an incoming college freshman going through Sorority Rush? You absolutely need to drop by the Carriage House for the best selection of dresses the River City has to offer. Plus, you’ll receive complimentary advice from professional stylists that will rival any celebrity treatment. Stay connected via social media for special trunk shows and sales.
Jar & Company
306 2nd Avenue SE, Decatur
Now that you’ve been humming “School’s Out For Summer” since you started reading this post, let’s switch to ZZ Top, “Every Girl’s Crazy About a Sharp Dressed Man.” Or in the words of Jar and Company, “We dress the southern gentleman.” As a mom to a boy, I can attest to the common mom complaint that the selection of boys’ clothing compared to girls’ is lackluster. Not true at Jar and Company! This local boutique will have everyone singing about how sharply dressed your little (big) man is once you leave the store. Plus they have a great selection of clothes for the ladies too!
209 2nd Avenue SE, Decatur
With the poshest styles and the most sought after shoes and accessories for tweens, teens, and ladies, this 2nd Avenue boutique also offers a VIP club for hot sales and discounts!
312 2nd Avenue SE, Decatur
Create a unique style that is both on point and affordable with a wardrobe from this trendy boutique for girls and women.
Cricket by the Creek
1517 6th Avenue SE, Decatur
Personal attention to detail keeps customers coming back to this upscale boutique for clothing, shoes, and accessories for teen girls, college coeds, and their stylish moms.
Blue Ribbon Shoes
1524 6th Avenue SE, Decatur
Part of me doesn’t want to tell the world about what I think is the best kept secret in the River City. But if you’re in the market for shoes for any member of your family, you’d be silly not to start at Blue Ribbon. With rows and rows of tables lined with shoes and more shoes from designers and department stores only accessible to us North Alabamians by internet or travel, it’s worth crossing the Tennessee River regularly just to check what they’ve stocked in your size this week. I highly recommend starting at Blue Ribbon for all your back to school shoe shopping before heading to the chain retail stores.
Three Ways to Help Children in Need
CASA Back to School Backpack Drive
For a donation of $25 you can sponsor an entire backpack filled with the specific supplies the children of Morgan County who are under the care of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) need. CASA of North Alabama is a 501(c)3 and your $25 donation for a backpack filled with supplies is tax deductible. Donations will be accepted until August 1st and can be mailed to CASA of North Alabama, PO Box 36, Decatur, AL 35602. Call Kim with any questions, 256-580-6017.
FACES Back to School Supply Drive
Each year the non-profit organization Families and Children Experiencing Separation (FACES) sponsors a school supply drive for Morgan County children in foster care. Many of these sweet kids have been removed from their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. You can help ease the stress of back to school time with the simple gift of a few packs of paper or a character backpack. Drop off school supplies at Morgan County Department of Human Resources (DHR, 507 14th Street SE, Decatur) or mail a tax-deductible donation to FACES (PO Box 964, Decatur, AL 35602) by August 1st. Don’t have time to shop for supplies yourself? Easily donate gift cards for any supply retailer to help foster children through FACES.
Stuff the Bus School Supply Drive
Join the Morgan County Schools Foundation and Town of Priceville on tax-free weekend and help “Stuff the Bus” for students in need within the Morgan County school system. Your donation of new school supplies, backpacks, sneakers, etc. are tax deductible and can be dropped off on August 6th at the bus parked at the Dollar General in Priceville. Supplies will be divided out among all schools in the district and grade-level supply lists will be on hand for easy shopping at Dollar General if needed. Stop by and enjoy FREE hot dogs and Pepsi products.
Don’t forget to visit one of the locally owned salons and barber shops in the River City for your back to school hairstyles and while you’re out, enjoy a family meal at a local restaurant too. Happy shopping in Decatur! I can’t wait to tell you about September in the River City. With Miss AmeriCASA and the River Clay Art Festival on the horizon, you won’t want to miss what Decatur has going on in September!
Andi Stewart is a Decatur-native, who spent over a decade living in Miami. She finally returned home, married a boy she’s known since childhood, and loves raising her family in the hometown she adores. She has two children, a son and a daughter. She’s a professional Environmental Engineer who balances a full-time career with motherhood. She’s run more marathons than she can count (mostly because she really enjoys eating) and she loves her daily barre class and traveling. She is passionate about her River City community and when she’s not volunteering, she’s enjoying all her city has to offer.