Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Report From The Road: Archie McPhee is Alive and Well and Living in Seattle

This past weekend I was tooling around various Seattle neighborhoods with a cousin of mine.

It's been many years since I've visited Seattle, and so it'd been just as many years since visiting
Archie McPhee, the retail outlet for the Accoutrements line of novelties and the Archie McPhee catalog.

It had turned into a lovely and warm sunny Sunday afternoon as my cousin drove me around.

First we went to Seattle's Fremont District ('The center of the universe; set your watch back five minutes'), saw the Lenin statue, the Fremont Rocket, and looked at the constant stream of people going to look at the
Fremont Troll residing under the Aurora Bridge and Highway 99.

I was surprised - - but not shocked - - to see how the neighborhood had grown since I was there in the '90's.

(click on images to ENLARGE in a new window)

From Fremont we headed over to Ballard (and the inevitable burgeoning 'FreeBall' district) and Archie McPhee's - - home of assorted plastic animals, the Edgar Allan Poe action figure, bacon-scented air freshener and flavorless 'Nihilist' chewing gum.

I knew that I was a little concerned about what I'd see this time around.

Back in the day, the stuff from Archie McPhee's was ever-so-slightly 'outside', their catalog and store even more so, and so a trip to that original store was a unique experience - - not just for the shopping, but simply to witness all those oddities under one roof.

Since then, all across the U.S. it seems like inside any gift shop or card store or kooky boutique you can't swing a rubber chicken without hitting a few of their products.

Upon entering the store, my worries dissipated.

Yes, absolutely, you'll see an abundance of all the boxing nuns, pig launchers and devil duckies that you can see anywhere - - but it's their festive and random presentation of those items alongside all sorts of other oddball 'surplus' goods that make for a fascinating retail experience. (In their neighboring annex, too. So many decorating ideas!)

Glass urinals. Motorcycle chains. Mailbox slots. Metal casters. Plastic letters. Different sizes of traffic light lenses. British Royal Mail jackets. Ball bearings.

Seeing that stuff right alongside bins of super balls, plastic moose, pez dispensers and other novelties did my heart good.

Yes, it may be hard to imagine some of the situations where a person might need some of these things, but you can say that about many retail establishments, and that may not necessarily be the point of visiting the Archie McPhee store.

Next time you're in Seattle, Washington and in need of a 'retail-outlet-as-museum' experience, I urge you to visit and see for yourself.


Lex10 said...

I had a similar experience recently at Yankee Trader in Columbus OH. I feel that Archie is a little more novelty hardcore, despite my getting these cool glow in the dark sunglasses shaped like a skull when folded, for $0.75/pair...

David Wahl said...

I work at Archie McPhee, well more for the Accoutrements part of the company that makes the toys. I've been reading your blog for a while and I'm so glad you like our stuff! I find your blog really inspirational.

I'm also from Columbus and agree that Yankee Trader is an awesome shopping experience. Shopping there is like stepping back in time.

Tor Hershman said...

Now that's a store

Payo said...

Please tell me you had a burger at Red Mill.

Donna Lethal said...

Oh I'm so envious! I've ordered from them for years, but have never made the pilgrimage. I have a feeling I'd be in there all day!

baikinange said...

I am happy to see that they still offer some of the smaller quantity and stranger items in their store. I got my Mao Playing Ping Pong and Stalin & Lenin Crossing the Delaware tapestries from them years ago and treasure them still. Though I no longer bother with their catalog.

ally. said...

blimey seattle looks brilliant - i thought it was just the home of checked shirts and unwashed hair.
thankyou - as usual

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