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the lakeshore story

Pioneers in education for 58 years, Lakeshore’s story is proof that big things often have small beginnings.



















A success story with a simple beginning
Like many great enterprises, Lakeshore started with one person taking a chance. In this case, it was Ethelyn Kaplan, an Omaha homemaker who decided to pack up her family and move to California to open a toy store back in 1954. The move was a bit unconventional for a woman in 1950s America, but then again, entrepreneurs don’t typically follow the status quo. Initially, Mrs. Kaplan focused on selling toys to parents, but before long, local schools started calling her for art materials and other classroom supplies. Mrs. Kaplan listened to her customers. Sensing an untapped market, she sold the store and started Lakeshore Learning Materials.
See how we’ve grown!
Eventually, Mrs. Kaplan’s sons, Charles and Michael, joined the business—expanding operations and turning Lakeshore into a million-dollar company within just a few years. When Mrs. Kaplan retired in 1971, Michael assumed the duties of President and CEO, while Charles became the Vice President in charge of merchandise and buying. Today, Michael’s sons, Bo and Josh, are an integral part of the business—having worked their way up from summer jobs in the warehouse. Bo is now President and CEO, and Josh is Executive Vice President. While Charles is now officially retired, Michael still serves as Chairman of the Board.
Our mission
Lakeshore is dedicated to creating innovative educational materials that spark young imaginations, instill a sense of wonder and foster a lifelong love of learning. With materials for infants & toddlers through the 6th grade, we help children reach developmental milestones and achieve educational goals—while still having fun! We know that each child is unique, and we strive to develop materials that appeal to children of all interests, backgrounds and abilities. And, of course, all of the products we carry must meet stringent quality & safety standards—so they’re strong enough for daily use in the classroom and safe enough for use by babies and children.
A passion for what we do
Even though Lakeshore has grown quite a bit since the 1950s, our passion for high-quality education has remained the same, and we are still dedicated to the teachers, children and parents we serve. Whether you walk into one of our retail stores, browse our catalogs, visit our website or speak with one of our local representatives, you’ll see our enthusiasm for education in everything we do.
  • Stores from coast to coast
    The first Lakeshore Learning Store opened in 1958…and we now have stores from coast to coast with plans to open more every year! Stop by one of our store locations for free teacher workshops, free children’s crafts and more!
  • Early Childhood and Elementary catalogs
    Browse our catalogs for age-appropriate, standards-based materials that span the curriculum—from music, art and dramatic play to language, math and science.
  • Full-service website
    In addition to all of the items you’ll find in our catalogs, our website offers free tools and resources that teachers can instantly use in their classrooms—with new materials added every month!
  • National sales force
    Our professional, highly trained sales force is available to help in any way that we can. Serving all 50 states—plus international customers—Lakeshore regional managers possess extensive product knowledge and an unsurpassed commitment to your satisfaction. Click here to contact your local regional manager.
Our company headquarters
While Lakeshore has retail stores across the country, our company headquarters are located in Southern California. Here, we do everything from developing our products and fulfilling customer orders to designing our catalogs and running our website. Plus, our distribution center is right on site, giving us incredible control over the quality of our products. Nothing leaves our distribution center until it has passed a detailed inspection process.

Our distribution center has changed quite a bit over the years. When we first started out, our employees actually increased productivity by filling orders on roller skates! Take a fun look back in time with this video.
Our very own preschool
In addition to providing educational materials for children around the globe, Lakeshore nurtures our own children right here at home! Our on-site preschool, Kids & Company, is a fully certified Nature Explore® Classroom that provides a safe and stimulating educational environment for our employees’ infants, toddlers and preschoolers. As you can see, it’s a big hit with kids and parents alike.
Our employees
Lakeshore is a collaborative environment where employees work side by side with company executives on a daily basis—and where every opinion is valued and every contribution appreciated. Lakeshore employees include everything from artists, writers and teachers to marketing specialists, sales representatives and retail associates. But they are all down-to-earth professionals who love to share their passion and their expertise…and who won’t settle for anything less than the very best. Lakeshore employees personify our commitment to quality, safety and customer service—and we credit the success of our company to the individual contributions they make every day.
Partners in education
Over the years, Lakeshore has been able to achieve a great deal. But when we join forces with others, the results are truly something. Because of our collaborations with nonprofits and other important players in the field of education, we have been able to affect the lives of millions. See our partnerships page for a list of organizations we’re proud to call our friends.
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©2014 Lakeshore Learning Materials. All rights reserved.