QUEENS — In the annual hunt for back-to-school supplies, a trip to Jamaica Avenue has become an end-of-summer tradition for bargain-hungry parents.
This year, shoppers on the bustling commerical stretch can find a polo shirt for a school uniform for as little as $4.88 and lunchboxes starting at $6.99.
“It’s much cheaper here than in other places,” said Roxana Perez of Bellerose, who was shopping recently on Jamaica Avenue with her 12-year-old twin sons, Xavier and Hinbir.
“We usually shop at Roosevelt Field mall [in Garden City], but this time we came here,” said Perez, who was buying two pairs of $40 black-and-white sneakers for her sons at Big Boys store. "We can save a lot of money," she said.
“We have a lot of family-friendly shopping options,” said Laurel Brown, executive director of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District. "Many stores on the avenue even have the word ‘kids’ or ‘children’ in their names. And they always offer great deals.”
Angels Children’s Wear & Shoes, The Children’s Place, YoungWorld and Kids Foot Locker are among the Jamaica Avenue stores that cater to families.
Briarwood mom Regina Matatova and her 11-year-old daughter, Michelle, recently visited looking for a school uniform. “I’m not excited about going back to school, but I’m excited about shopping,” said Michelle, who will start seventh grade this year.
Matatova said they went to YoungWorld first, but eventually picked out a uniform at Cookie's, one of the largest kids department stores in the area. “We paid around $15,” Matatova said. “That’s a good deal.”
Cookie's, which calls itself an "official school uniform headquarters," offers about 2,000 different back-to-school items, including skirts, jumpers, pants and shirts, estimated Alan Matz, the store’s general manager.
Boys pants at Cookie's start at $6.99, short-sleeve shirts run from $5.99 to $9.99, and jumpers go for between $8.99 and $29.99.
The jumpers, Matz said, come in a variety of colors and designs, with buttons, bow ties, bubble skirts, collars, wide straps and pockets. “We also have very long ones for the Islamic schools,” Matz said, adding that the store offers a 10 percent discount on school uniforms.
The store has also a large selection of backpacks and lunchboxes. Lunchboxes featuring Dora the Explorer cost $6.99, while one with Minnie Mouse is $12.99.
Conway, only four blocks away from Cookie's, also offers a 10 percent discount on school uniforms, said Raj Saha, the store’s manager. Shoppers can find school bags from $5.99 to $19.99, polo shirts from $4.88, short-sleeve shirts from $4.99 and jumpers for $7.99.
A pair of socks at Conway cost only 59 cents and a school tie is just $2.99.
Shoppers will also find deals on other school supplies along Jamaica Avenue. For example, Jackpot Savings sells 18 pencils for $1.29, notebooks for 79 cents and folders for $1.
Some shoppers drive for hours to take advantage of the bargains. “I just had a customer who came from Centereach, Long Island, two hours away,” Matz said.
How much shoppers spend often depends on what the school requires parents to buy for their children, he said, adding that customers can spend as little as $20 to buy a uniform, consisting of a pair of pants and a shirt.
"Add a lunchbox or a book bag," Matz said, "and you can do it for $30."