Shining Stars Learning Center plans a fall relocation into the old Eastern Bank building in Cliftondale
In recent weeks, there have been renewed signs of life in the old Eastern Bank building at 489 Lincoln Ave. in Cliftondale. There’s a colorful new sign in front of the two-story building, announcing that Shining Stars Learning Center – a 20-year-old Saugus-based business that specializes in preschool education – is moving into the neighborhood.
“We have been searching for a building to purchase for a very long time. The property needed to be big enough for our program and would also allow for parking and a playground,” Shining Stars owner Tricia Murphy said recently of her center’s move.
“The Building in Cliftondale has all of that with unique interior architecture,” she said. “There is a lot of work to be done. First on the agenda is to remove all of the built-in safes and the vault door. Classrooms will be on the main floor, in the full basement and we will use the mezzanine as well. The building is flooded with sunlight, and we plan on transforming the interior into a cheerful and welcoming place.”
Shining Stars has spent the last 17 years in the old Edwards School located at 20 Denver St.
“Last Fall when I noticed the building was empty, I inquired about its future, thinking it would make a beautiful school for us,” Murphy said.
“At that time, there were no plans to sell it. As soon as we saw it was being sold, we jumped. As a Saugus business owner, I was on the Cliftondale Revitalization Committee at the beginning of the research and read the final report. Cliftondale has such promise and we are so proud to be a business bringing new vibrant life to the area,” she said.
Murphy said she hopes the center will open this fall with the same hours as in the past: 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The center provides early learning for about 125 children. It offers programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and a before- and after-school program. Preschool is by far the center’s biggest program. During the school year, Shining Stars has about 30 teachers. The staff expands to about 40 teachers during the summer, as its summer camp requires more staff.
“One of the best things about Shining Stars – aside from our amazing children – is our teachers,” Murphy said.
“They are dedicated, passionate, and loving. Of the 40 staff this summer, 15 of them are former students. There are 11 teachers that have been with us for 10 or more years; two of them just celebrated their 20-year anniversary and have been with us since the first day we opened. It is remarkable to work alongside such incredible people,” she said.
Murphy has been in the education field for more than 25 years. “The two people I mentioned that have been with us for 20 years, we all started out at the same childcare center in Marblehead together. Now they help run Shining Stars,” she said.
“My husband and I, along with our three children, lived in Saugus for 15 years, while Shining Stars was just starting out. An opportunity came up to purchase a friend’s house in Lynnfield and we took it. Saugus has always been like my second hometown,” she said.
Murphy said she ascribes to “the Golden Rule” philosophy as she runs her business. “Our mission is to treat every child the way you would want your child treated,” Murphy said.
“This comes from the Golden Rule taught to me by my mom. She once said to me, “If everyone treated each other the way they want to be treated, wouldn’t the world be a beautiful place?” That just stuck with me and it’s how we run our program and try to live our lives. I believe this is why we have so many of our former students who want to come back and work, and why our teachers are so committed to this profession,” she said. “Many of the families that have brought their children to us, past and present, have become lifelong friends. It is incredible to work as a team with families when they already feel like family.”
Shining Stars’ relocation to Cliftondale is welcome news for town officials and residents who are eager to see the once-bustling neighborhood business district revitalized. “Having a preschool like Shining Stars is a good way to get foot traffic in Cliftondale during the day,” said Selectman Corinne Riley, a lifelong Cliftondale resident.
“The local shops that are presently still doing business could benefit from parents maybe stopping to get a bite to eat or nails or hair appointments, even by the employees,” Riley said. “I wish them well in their new home. Also, it will be good to see new life there, and hope to continue to fill the empty storefronts with a nice restaurant and enticing new businesses to continue to revitalize Cliftondale.”