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School teachers stock up on free supplies at Zims

SALT LAKE CITY — You can't beat free.

While arts and crafts are likely among the most underfunded programs in public schools, schoolteachers got a little help this month with the closing of the 63-year-old Zim's Craft store, 150 S. State.

Teachers with valid identification have been able to stock up on school craft supplies at the store for free. The store is selling the rest of its merchandise at 90 percent off.

"It's a madhouse in the afternoon," Craig Zimmerman, store owner, said of about 3 p.m., when schools let out. "I'm not sure there will be much left."

He estimates about 500 teachers a day have shopped for free this week, coming from as far away as Richfield and the Carbon School District.

One school district brought two semi trucks and loaded up on crafts supplies.

"I'm going at it," Jane Kinsel, a fourth-grade teacher at Midway Elementary, said as she shopped Thursday at Zim's. "Arts programs aren't well supplied. Finding a parking space (at Zim's) was the only hard part."

Eleanor Zimmerman Hewart, 90, started Zim's with her late husband, Cliff, in 1947.

"It's time to go," she said of the store closing. "I've had a lot of fun," she said of the 50 years she worked at the store.

The big chain arts and craft stores have forced them out, she said.

"It was a different time then (the 1940s)," she said. "Every little town used to have its own craft store."

Zimmerman said InterNet Properties has purchased the five-story, approximately 45,000-square-foot Zim's building. They plan to restore the century-old building to its original appearance and then hope to lease it as upscale office space.

The building was originally a horse-drawn carriage factory and later a dealership selling Ford, Buick and Franklin automobiles.

Zimmerman said he plans to take a year off and study the economy before he considers any future business enterprise.

The Zim's store in Murray closed about a year ago.

The Zim's name dates to 1932 when Zimmerman's grandfather opened Zim's Stamp & Coin Co. at 240 E. 200 South in Salt Lake City.

The first Zim's Crafts store opened at the same location in 1947, and in the mid-1980s, Zim's sold that 200 South property to Mountain Bell, which constructed an office tower on the site, and moved to its latest location.