Back to School: New July date for tax holiday benefits customers, store owners say

While school children across the state enjoy summer’s last hurrah, it’s already busy season inside Schoolcraft, a school and teacher supply store in Huntsville.

“July is our busiest month of the year,” said Wilson McClellan, who owns the store with his wife, Linda.

“Teachers are already coming to get items to make their classrooms bright and cheerful for the kids. It won’t be long until we see parents and children back here too, all excited to get their new nap mats and supplies,” Wilson predicts.

And then it will get even busier, the McClellans say. That’s because Alabama’s 12th annual back-to-school sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 21, and ends at midnight Sunday, July 23, giving shoppers statewide the opportunity to purchase certain school supplies, computers, books and clothing free of the state’s four percent sales or use tax.

During the Alabama Legislature’s 2017 regular session, lawmakers voted to change the date of the sales tax holiday, moving it from the first weekend in August to the third weekend in July. The new law ensures the tax holiday always falls before the first day of school. In recent years, many school systems, especially those in North Alabama, started before the tax holiday, leaving parents and teachers unable to take advantage of the tax savings.

“I really think the change of the date is a big benefit for our customers,” said Linda. “Back-to-school shoppers have to purchase these items regardless; and before, they didn’t always get to purchase it during the tax holiday, if school had already started.”

Wilson agreed, saying, “The timing of it is much better. We think our customers will really appreciate this change.”

Helping customers is what makes work most fulfilling for the McClellans and their staff. “There is nothing more satisfying than having a teacher or customer come in and ask for something that he or she thinks is going to be difficult to find. And bingo! We’ve got it. We all just love that,” explained Wilson.

Linda added, “When teachers come in and ask us for a product we don’t have, we try to get it in. We try to run this like a service organization. Maybe people on the outside wouldn’t see it that way. But, we do what we can to be helpful to our customers.”

The McClellans feel right at home taking care of their shoppers inside the colorful aisles of Schoolcraft, but the two never planned to get into the school supply business. Wilson and Linda, who graduated from Auburn University in engineering and business respectively, moved to Huntsville to be closer to family, and soon opened several day cares with some friends.

“It always seemed difficult to get school supplies when needed. So, we thought, ‘We should just start a school supply store.’ That was in 1975. We ended up selling the day cares, but we’ve had the school supply store ever since.”

While the retail landscape has vastly changed during the store’s more than 40 years in business, the McClellans say their business model of joyfully serving their customers – teachers, parents and the community – will always remain.

“The market is very competitive these days with folks like Amazon, and that’s a difficult thing to fight. But, Amazon can’t offer the personalized service, the one-on-one help, that we offer. It’s what we do best, and we hope that our customers experience that and come back and shop with us,” said Wilson.

“It’s been rewarding work,” added Linda. “After all these years, we still enjoy coming to work every day.”

Visit Schoolcraft at 717 Church Street in Huntsville from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Saturdays or shop online at


Story and photos by Melissa Johnson Warnke

>>Learn more about Alabama’s back-to-school sales tax holiday.