Amy Smith wants her kids to have fun over the summer, but not too much fun.
That's why the Caseyville woman was shopping at the new Parent Teacher Tools & Toys store in O'Fallon recently. She bought several books in the Summer Bridge Activities series for her daughter, Lauren, 11, and son, Colin, 9.
"It's just to keep them thinking about school during the summer," said Amy, 47. "It keeps their minds active in the education field instead of just the play field."
Smith is one of many metro-east residents who were relieved to hear that someone had purchased the inventory of the Fairview Heights Parent Teacher Tools store, which closed in November, and moved the business to downtown O'Fallon.
The new owners, Mary Jo and Chris Guinn of Troy, also added "toys" to the name.
"We sell educational supplies for teachers," Mary Jo said. "We carry toys and games. We carry special-needs items for parents and therapists. We have a line of allergen-free dessert mixes. We have arts-and-crafts items. We kind of have a little bit of everything."
Mary Jo was wearing an apron with a pig pen to promote "Bacon's Big Smooching Adventure," a children's book written by her friend Olivia Johnson. She hopes to carry more local authors in the future.
The new store opened May 23. It occupies a 4,500-square-foot space at 108 W. State St., former location of The Ginger Shop consignment and thrift store.
Parent Teacher Tools had been operating in Fairview Heights for 17 years.
"It's not a chain," Mary Jo said. "But at one time, the previous owners had multiple locations (including Alton and Edwardsville)."
Mary Jo and Chris have a blended family with four children, including Braden Guinn, 6, who has autism; Shea Guinn, 9; Ava Guinn, 10; and Jessica Kuca, 15. Chris is an attorney in the Alton office of Simmons Hanly Conroy.
Mary Jo worked as a nurse for five years while attending law school, then practiced law for four years, handling mostly asbestos, injury and malpractice cases. She quit in 2007 to become a stay-at-home mom.
"A lot of our energy and life revolved around autism, helping Braden find proper therapy and adjusting to his needs," she said. "I also became an autism advocate, whether it was educating people or helping them find resources."
Mary Jo shopped at Parent Teacher Tools in Fairview Heights, which is why she took a special interest in a Belleville News-Democrat notice about the store's closing.
"I thought, 'Wow, that store has been around for a long time,'" she said. "At that moment, I forwarded the article to my husband by text. I said, 'We should buy this store and move it to O'Fallon.' ... I thought, 'It's important to this area. People need this store, especially people like us who have been blindsided by a diagnosis.'"
Mary Jo also has an entrepreneurial side, and she always knew she would eventually return to the workplace. She just didn't know how, where or when.
Her sister Jo Ann Buettner, mother, Mary Ann Lett, and brother Dan Lett also are helping with the new business.
"I'm glad that it opened," said customer Michele Roustio, 51, of O'Fallon, a former teacher who now operates a home day-care center. "I went to the other one a lot. I was bummed that it was closing. I went there all the time."
Lion's Choice to replace Tim Hortons in O'Fallon
Lion's Choice will be opening an Illinois restaurant in O'Fallon, replacing Tim Hortons coffee and doughnut shop, which closed in December.
"Right now, the target date is July 2," said Jackie Steele, administrative assistant at Lion's Choice corporate headquarters in St. Louis.
The new restaurant will share a building with Reliance Bank at 450 Regency Park, across the street from The Egg & I, near the new St. Elizabeth's Hospital.
"I think it will do well," said Ted Shekell, O'Fallon's community development director. "That area is so busy with the hospital and the offices and hotels."
Lion's Choice is a fast-food chain that specializes in roast-beef sandwiches, but it also serves turkey, ham, pulled-pork, Italian beef and French dip sandwiches; hotdogs; soups; salads; sides; and ice cream desserts.
The company has 25 locations, all in Missouri, most in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
"They were familiar with O'Fallon," Shekell said. "They had a place in town several years ago in front of Walmart."
A group of friends opened the first Lion's Choice in 1967 in Ballwin, Missouri, as an alternative to burger joints, according to a company history.
Freddy's to replace Burger King in Edwardsville
Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is opening a restaurant in Edwardsville, its third location in the metro-east.
The Kansas-based fast-food chain plans to renovate the Burger King space in front of Schnucks, along Illinois 159. Burger King closed May 30.
"We have filed paperwork with the city to bring Freddy's to Edwardsville," said Nicole Gibbs, director of public relations. "We have not completed any construction contracts or anything like that. We're still in the planning and permitting stage."
Freddy's specializes in steakburgers on butter-toasted buns. Its restaurants also serve hotdogs, chicken tenders, chili, crispy shoestring fries, soft-serve cones, sundaes and concretes.
"They're great people," said Walter Williams, Edwardsville economic development director. "They're going to be a great addition to our community. They get involved in the community."
Freddy's has more than 300 locations in the United States, including one in Shiloh and one in Collinsville. Freddy Simon, who inspired the name, showed up for Shiloh's grand opening in 2016. The company was founded in 2002 by two of his sons and a partner in Wichita, Kansas.
Restaurant decor is reminiscent of ’50s soda fountains with red booths and spinner stools, diner-style tables and pendulum lighting. Walls are lined with black-and-white photos from Simon's childhood, military service and career in the beverage industry.
"If everything goes as planned, we're hoping to open (the Edwardsville location) in late 2018 or early 2019," Gibbs said.
A Burger King spokesman couldn't be reached for comment. The company's restaurants remain open in Swansea, Belleville, Collinsville, Troy, Granite City, Columbia and Scott Air Force Base.
Williams said he didn't know why the Edwardsville Burger King closed. He had planned to eat there on May 31.
"That was my go-to place," he said. "But I'll look forward to Freddy's. I'm easy. Just give me a burger."