My last visit to Seattle was in 2009, and at that time I visited Archie McPhee at their old location. Seven years passed and it was time for another visit. The location has changed, but the fun remains the same.
“What is Archie McPhee”? It’s a catalog, website and brick, and mortar store — created and owned by Mark Pahlow — that sells wacky gimmicks and novelties. What kind of novelties? How about unicorn masks, bonnets for your cat, Bigfoot Christmas ornaments, glow-in-the-dark octopus tentacles you wear on your fingers, squirrel underpants, rubber chickens, and bacon-flavored candy canes? Their website has about 600 different novelties, and the store seems to have about 10,000. The novelties stay on the classy side of the street — no fart jokes or vibrating devices. Every Christmas I place a massive order and treat my friends and family to some memorable oddball amusements.
I arrived at Archie McPhee about an hour later than I planned. The GPS in my rental got me lost 4 or 5 times, allowing me to see much of Seattle but limiting my time at McPhee. Fortunately, the new location was easy to spot — red & yellow and lined with many of the mythical characters featured in their gimmicks — and they have free parking. Once I entered the store, it was like one of those game shows where you have a limited time to grab as much money as you can. Instead of cash, I was grabbing finger monsters, squirrel-sized coffee cups, fugu-flavored candies, gummy candy bacon (tastes like strawberry, looks like bacon), a Bigfoot scarf, zombie pirate finger puppets, rubber tentacles, Thanksgiving dinner flavored gum, rubber chicken floating pens, and much more. I ended up spending $197 dollars (and got a free book about Archie McPhee). Had I more time, I would have spent a thousand dollars. Literally $1000.
Click and zoom in on these photos to get an idea about how vast their novelty selection is.
So, in 7 years, what has changed? Obviously, the location and the exterior of the building have changed, and inside many of the attractions have been altered in some transformative but amusing way. Otherwise, it’s the same store, packed with goodies and awesomely helpful employees (who, even though I arrived close to closing time, didn’t chase me out the door — which I really appreciate).
The new storefront is missing the Jesus Lizard and neon (the neon is around the corner), but it has gained a Bibo and Bigfoot:
Cap’t Archie the Fortune Teller, once clearly a boat captain, now appears to be on his day off, enjoying a meal at a diner:
The Devil Head has gained some blond locks, X’s for eyes, and a veil of sorts:
So, what did I learn from my most recent trip to Archie McPhee:
- Our time on earth is short, so have and share as much fun as you can, while you can.
- Things change over time, but if your core beliefs and aspirations stay the same, cosmetic/superficial transformations make little difference.
- You can learn valuable lessons by returning to places you’ve visited in past.
- Rental car GPS, not so good.