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The Lakeshore Story

Ethelyn opens first store
In 1954, Ethelyn Kaplan, a single mother, defies the conventions of 1950s America—packing up her family and heading west to California to open a toy store. When educators start requesting her products, she realizes a higher calling—service to teachers.
Lakeshore’s first catalog debuts
Lakeshore prints its first-ever catalog to supply teachers with classroom materials. It quickly becomes a trusted source of high-quality learning essentials among teachers.
First Los Angeles store opens
After the store in West L.A. opens its doors, Lakeshore quickly becomes an educational focal point and resource for the community—offering in-store teacher workshops, free crafts for kids and many neighborhood events.
Mike & Charlie take charge
Mrs. Kaplan’s sons, Charles and Michael, join the business—expanding operations and turning Lakeshore into a million-dollar company within just a few years. When Mrs. Kaplan retires, Michael assumes the duties of president and CEO, while Charles becomes vice president in charge of merchandise and buying.
Product development begins
Lakeshore begins researching and developing its own brand of products. At the helm: a talented team of former teachers who put their real-world classroom know-how to work, creating unique products designed to enhance the teaching and learning experience.
On-site preschool opens
Kids & Company preschool opens at Lakeshore’s Carson, CA, headquarters. Licensed to serve up to 72 children, it provides care for employees’ children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. The school is a certified Nature Explore® Classroom, promoting active learning through the sights, textures and beauty of nature.
Lakeshore develops elementary products
Lakeshore introduces Grades 1-2-3, its first catalog featuring elementary materials. In 2004, the catalog expands to include grades K–6. Renamed the Elementary catalog, it is packed cover to cover with standards-based learning materials designed to supplement language arts, math, social studies and science curriculums.
New distribution center opens
Lakeshore’s state-of-the-art distribution center has come a long way from the old days—when roller-skating warehouse employees filled customers’ orders! Now Lakeshore processes thousands of orders every day in over 1 million square feet of warehouse.
Lakeshore launches Custom Solutions
Knowing that when it comes to learning, one size doesn’t always fit all, Lakeshore introduces Custom Solutions. The service specializes in working with districts and schools around the country to customize materials for educational programs that include special education, Head Start and Early Head Start, STEM, after school, family engagement and more!
Bo and Josh lead the company
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 president of merchandising.
Complete Classrooms® launches
Recognizing that setting up new classrooms is often a challenge for busy educators, Lakeshore introduces Complete Classrooms®. The service provides complimentary classroom design, delivery and installation to new and expanding school programs throughout the country.
Gifts for Growing Minds® catalog debuts
Lakeshore’s Gifts for Growing Minds® catalog is designed to bring learning home, engaging kids and their families through the wonder of play. The catalog is filled with creative, hands-on products designed by teachers to spark young imaginations and make learning fun.
Lakeshore introduces Infant & Toddler environments
Knowing that child care programs need a variety of safe and nurturing classroom spaces to accommodate the youngest children, Lakeshore introduces Infant & Toddler environments. Developed to ITERS and NAEYC standards, the environments are available as individual interest areas or complete classrooms.
Eastern distribution center breaks ground
Lakeshore breaks ground on a brand-new distribution center in Kentucky, which is scheduled to be open by 2018. With 500,000 square feet of storage space, the facility will bring faster delivery times to customers in the eastern United States. It is the perfect complement to the home distribution center in California, increasing the company’s storage capacity to more than 1.5 million square feet!

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 and toddlers through the 6th grade, we help children reach developmental milestones and achieve educational goals—while still having fun!

Early Childhood

Inspiring our littlest learners since 1958

Explore, discover, play and learn! Our products are specially designed to motivate and encourage little ones to investigate and engage with their world…preparing them for grade-school success!


Creating targeted elementary materials since 1997

No one understands what school-age children need more than Lakeshore. That’s because all of our product developers are former educators who apply real-world classroom experience to every product we develop.

Bringing Learning Home

Using the power of play to make learning fun

Our products for learning at home made an instant connection with parents—and even received national attention on the TODAY® show and in People Magazine.

Our People

At our headquarters in Southern California, we have talented individuals who do everything from developing products and filling customer orders to designing our catalogs and managing our digital marketing space. Plus, we have knowledgeable representatives across the country—both in our stores and out in the field. Also, 30% of our full-time employees have had careers at Lakeshore for more than a decade! Check out our Careers page for open positions. We also have an employee preschool, Kids & Company, which is a fully certified Nature Explore® Classroom.

Product Innovation

Lakeshore has been developing innovative products since 1988. Our developers take Lakeshore products from ideas to realities—from first sketches and 3-D simulations to rigorous testing and classroom use. To ensure quality and safety, every product we carry undergoes an average of more than one hundred hours of development and testing before it reaches our customers.

Stores from Coast to Coast

The first Lakeshore Learning Store opened in San Leandro, California…and now we 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 Crafts for Kids and more.

Community and Partnerships

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 some of the exciting work we’ve been doing in the community, and check out our partnerships page for a list of organizations we’re proud to call our friends.

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