WEST WYOMING — Donna Brenner has been the face of The Cookie Corner Childcare Center for 37 years.
Brenner has elected to step down as owner and operator of the center, turning it over to Toni Tossi Tabone.
“You know how you just feel like it’s time,” Brenner said of her decision to step down. “It’s time to pass it on because she is very ready to take it over, and when you have someone like her that,you know can carry on what you’ve worked so hard for, it seems like it’s the right time.”
Brenner sold the business to Tossi Tabone with the transaction officially taking place at the start of this year.
The process to turn it over started at the beginning of 2017.
Brenner will continue to own the building at 272 W. 8th St. where the childcare center is located because she doesn’t want Tossi Tabone to have to worry about maintaining the building while operating the business.
“It would be overwhelming for her,” Brenner said. “The building and the business at one time — that’d be too much. For now, it’s a lot on her plate.”
Tossi Tabone, of West Pittston, started working at The Cookie Corner in 1999 shortly after she earned a degree in Elementary Education from King’s College.
She said she saw an ad in the paper about the business hiring.
“I came home from vacation and there was an ad in the paper about The Cookie Corner hiring,” Tossi Tabone said. “So, my mom knew a former teacher that worked here, and she told me to come in an apply. It’s crazy how everything worked out.”
The Cookie Corner teaches children ages 18 months to 5 years old, and Tossi Tabone has experience teaching all ages.
She worked with preschool and daycare students until 2003 when she gave birth to her daughter. After one of the nursery school teachers retired, she returned two days a week working in the nursery school until another teacher retired and she began teaching the pre-kindergarten class.
Now that she’s focusing on operating the business, Tossi Tabone has had to take a step back from teaching which she said has been the most difficult transition.
“My kids in the nursery school are like ‘I miss you’ and I’m like ‘Aw, don’t even get me started,’” she said. “That part has been very hard to step back from teaching. I am teaching one day a week right now with the pre-kindergarten students. I started with them in September, and I want to finish with them in June. That part has been hard for me.”
Although Brenner is no longer in charge, she continues to work about two days a week or whenever Tossi Tabone needs her.
“It’s going to work for both of us, and this is good for both us,” Brenner said, although she admits it was difficult at first waking up and not having to open the center.
“That first Friday during that first week, I woke up that morning and I didn’t have to shower and rush,” Brenner said. “I had this pit in my stomach, and I know this is the right thing, but I was sick to my stomach because I wasn’t coming up here. It’s part of my life for 37 years! I miss the kids, I miss my co-workers and I miss the families coming in and out.”
Brenner opened The Cookie Corner Childcare Center back on Feb. 1, 1981 with her older sister, Sandie Charney, after they purchased the building from their father, Dante Begliomini, who owned and operated Tri-County Battery Co. at the location
The business started out with only four children, but now, 135 families are enlisted and there is currently a waiting list to join The Cookie Corner family.
“We did all of our advertising with the Sunday Dispatch,” Brenner said about getting started. “(They) helped us get to where we were and get started. We advertised in the paper, put flyers at the Midway Shopping Center. It was rough.”
As the years went on, the childcare center grew more and more and has become a staple not only in West Wyoming, but the entire Greater Pittston community.
Tossi Tabone knows she has much to learn going forward and she’s leaning heavily on Brenner to guide her.
“I haven’t really given all that a lot of thought,” she said about possible changes. “I really like the way everything runs right now. Everything just flows, and I really don’t see any major changes right now. Everything has been successful, and I’m comfortable with how everything is being done right now.”
With a new regime underway, Brenner can’t help but be thankful for the past 37 years and has a special message to the families, past and present, that have come through the business’s doors.
“To all our current parents and those preceding them, there are no words to thank each of you properly for sharing your most precious children,” she said. “They will always be held close in a most grateful heart. May your journey with them be as beautiful and blessed as mine has been.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher