Meet Your Merchant: Tahoe daycare owner focused on his community obligation
TAHOE CITY, Calif. and#8212; Hundreds of photos line the walls. They are images of children: Babies, toddlers holding pumpkins, brothers and sisters, kids with Santa hats, kids in costumes, kids with birthday hats, kids sucking thumbs, kids with paint all over their faces. The wall collage is colorful and expansive, highlighting the word and#8220;Sproutsand#8221; in middle with big bubbly cut-out letters.
The wall of portraiture belongs to the Little Sprouts Daycare in Tahoe City, owned by Ed Stuart, who is one of the three staff members at the center that started in 1983 when his mother moved to Tahoe to help him with his own children.
and#8220;I was in property management, and she needed to stimulate some income, and I said to her and#8216;if youand#8217;re going to take care of my kids then why donand#8217;t you take care of other kids,and#8217;and#8221; Ed said. and#8220;So thatand#8217;s how it started.and#8221;
His mother has since passed, but Stuart has worked for more than 25 years full-time to see it through. Since its inception, the daycare has gone through its transitions with the highs and lows of the economy, as child care has been a difficult proposition during the recession.
Stuart said heand#8217;s lowered his rates by almost half, down from $40 a day to $25, to accommodate struggling families trying to pay the bills and give their children quality daycare at the same time.
and#8220;Tahoe is a tough place to make it for families. The income here is pretty low and weand#8217;ve lost a lot of families to the Bay Area, Reno or down to Sacramento,and#8221; Stuart said. and#8220;When the bottom fell out three years ago, it looked really bad.and#8221;
Despite the economic downturn, Stuart said he felt an obligation to the community to keep prices affordable.
and#8220;I just donand#8217;t feel you should have to compete for child care and#8212; they either bring them to you or they take them to somebody else,and#8221; said Stuart.
Now, after nearly three decades, Stuart said he and his staff have tried to deliver the best daycare for Tahoe residents and parents.
and#8220;The kids usually come in the door kicking and screaming not wanting to be here, but on the way out theyand#8217;re usually kicking and screaming because they donand#8217;t want to go home,and#8221; said Stuart.
Lana Shomo said she couldnand#8217;t have asked for a better care taker for her son when she moved to Tahoe in 2007. Stuart has cared for her son from ages 2 to 6 before he entered kindergarten.
and#8220;Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty and#8212; when I wanted to put my son into pre-school but worked 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Ed made sure that my son got on the bus, and was outside to pick him up when the bus returned in the afternoon,and#8221; Shomo said. and#8220;I would still send my son there if he was not too old … Ed Stuart is a wonderful man.and#8221;
Stuart defers any praise, however, as he likes to keep his focus on the children, many of whom he sees wandering around Tahoe now in their late 20s and early 30s and#8212; some of them with children of their own attending the daycare.
and#8220;I must hold the Guinness Book of World Records title for changing diapers for a male,and#8221; said Stuart. and#8220;People scratch their heads and say and#8216;how can you do it?and#8217;
and#8220;and#8216;Well,and#8217; I tell them, and#8216;itand#8217;s like any other job and#8212; you just do it.and#8217;and#8221;
The daycare has swelled and shrunk and swelled over the years. At one point, the center would serve as many as 42 kids in a day. Now the number of total enrolled children is down to the high 20s.
But Stuart said he anticipates there will be another influx of growth, with the same expectation one has of winter or spring.
and#8220;Itand#8217;ll come back,and#8221; he said. and#8220;Iand#8217;m sure it will come and#8212; there will always be kids in Tahoe.and#8221;
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