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No Bags at Spag's
May 16, 2013 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Spag's, started by Anthony "Spag" Borgatti in 1934, and run by him until his death in 1996, was a pioneer in discount retail, and an icon in Central Massachusetts. It will close its doors, again, for good, this Friday.

Spag's had great signage, lots of free branded swag, and tons of personality

Spag's family did their best to keep the business going in a changing retail climate but finally were bought out by the owners of Massachusetts' OTHER iconic discount retail brand - Building 19 (Good Stuff Cheap) in 2002. Building 19 made a go of it in that location as both Spag's 19 and Building 19 but has finally been forced to call it quits.

Farewell.
posted by dirtdirt (73 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh no! I loved that store. Never shopped there until it was Building 19, but it was ridiculous the deals you could get. Since l moved away from Worcester, I have to settle for Ocean State Job Lot now, but it's not the same.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:29 AM on May 16, 2013


Oh, wow. I used to love those commercials, and regularly amused myself as a child by repeating the word "SPAG'S" in Spag's voice over and over again. Thank you for posting this.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:30 AM on May 16, 2013


(also Building 19 fucking rules, forever and ever, amen)
posted by Greg Nog at 8:30 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:41 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Spags was insane. It was a total firetrap inside, but damn was it fun to shop there. They also had a pretty awesome hotdog cart out back.

Building 19 is one of those places I loved as a kid but I can't bring myself to go there as an adult. It's filthy and it seems like nothing has changed inside in 30 years. Whenever I have gone there I've come out empty handed once I realize I have no use for the same old crap they've always had. Still, for some reason I'm glad it's still there.
posted by bondcliff at 8:42 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I LOVE BUILDING 19

It's filthy and it seems like nothing has changed inside in 30 years.

JUST LIKE ME
posted by Greg Nog at 8:44 AM on May 16, 2013 [25 favorites]


I was in Building 19 a couple weeks ago and they were selling brand new multifunction printers that were guaranteed not to work. All of the them were prominently on display with large signs promising that not a single one of them was functional in any way.

As with most things Building 19, I couldn't tell whether the store was brilliantly catering to the homebrew 3d printer crowd, or just callously trying to unload some cheap junk.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:47 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I bought my daughter ten children's books at Building 19 once, and we either had to duct tape the, back together or cut the pages apart to make them readable, but they were 50¢ each, so whatever.

My wife once saw racks and racks full of orange prison jumpsuits for sale there. Just terrific.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:51 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I went to college in Worcester (WPI), and Spags was the go-to place for random project materials. The pneumatic cash tubes were always fun to watch.
posted by hanoixan at 8:52 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just coming in to say the bins labeled "PRISON" are my favorite thing about Massachusetts and possibly the whole world.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:52 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I miss Spag's so much! There was nothing else like it. It was one of few retail establishments that my dad actively enjoyed going to when I was a kid, so it was always sort of a festive occasion to go there. Walk in, grab a random cardboard packing box to carry your stuff (No Bags at Spags), and off you went. Stuff was organized, but only to a certain extent - it's hard to describe, but Spag had figured out the perfect balance of "avalanche of cheap but good quality stuff" and "store that cares about its reputation." When Spag's daughter took it over, she monkeyed with the formula and tried to turn the store into something it wasn't... more polished, more conventional retail. (They even started accepting credit cards, for pete's sake!) And they opened an ill-advised store out near Springfield, where there was no awareness of the Spag's brand, and since the brand was already sort of broken by that point it just helped run the business into the ground.

When I moved back to the area in 2002 I went to Spag's-19, and it was a pale shadow of what Spag's once was. But I did buy a Spag's mug (made shortly before the Building 19 takeover, I think) which I now must go dig out of the attic.

I'm not surprised that it didn't work out; I expect long-time Spag's customers never warmed up to the usurpers, and Building 19 customers probably wondered what the big deal was.
posted by usonian at 8:53 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


They also had a pretty awesome hotdog cart out back.

My brother worked at that hot dog cart full time for 9 years. I grew up (partly) in Shrewsbury and Spag's was a HUGE deal to me. I've long since moved away, but I have a Google alert for Spag's. I was saddened when it went off this morning, so much so that I paid $10 on the eBays for a vintage Spag's bumper sticker, which I now CAN'T WAIT to put on my car.

It's filthy and it seems like nothing has changed inside in 30 years.

In researching this FPP I saw this picture of one guys killer Building 19 finds. 40 year old new stock.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:53 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


When I was a kid, one St. Patrick's day, Building #19 had a promotion where you could get 10% off anything that had the color green in it. I needed to stock up on fishing gear so I spent about three hours in the store digging through all the gear, buying whatever I could as long as it was partially green. I had a green net, a green rod, lures with green in them, and I was even successful in convincing the cashier that the spool of fishing line I bought was a shade of green. That was a good haul.

Do they still give you a bottle of crappy champagne if you find a lower price somewhere else?
posted by bondcliff at 9:00 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


YES
CHATEAU DE CHEAPO
posted by Greg Nog at 9:03 AM on May 16, 2013


Hah! The guy who runs Building 19 actually looks just like the cartoon of him that they put in every printed ad.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:03 AM on May 16, 2013


Having been away from Massachusetts for a while now, I had no idea the store was still around. For some reason I assumed it had closed for good after the owner died.

I remember loving those jokey Building #19 circulars in the Sunday paper, though.
posted by anthom at 9:04 AM on May 16, 2013


CHATEAU DE CHEAPO

Ha! Vintage Tuesday! I used to get those ads every week in the mail. Haven't seen one in a while.
posted by bondcliff at 9:04 AM on May 16, 2013


bondcliff: Building 19 is one of those places I loved as a kid but I can't bring myself to go there as an adult. It's filthy and it seems like nothing has changed inside in 30 years

Two Rhode Island locations to choose from!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:04 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


At Spags, you save.........................

MONEY!
posted by grog at 9:08 AM on May 16, 2013


Damn shame about Spags, tho.

Never shopped there until it was Building 19

As a kid I remember being in Building 19 once, and there was a table piled high with wet underwear. It was on sale, of course.
posted by grog at 9:10 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I cannot find it anywhere. WHY WAS HE CALLED "SPAG"?
posted by grubi at 9:13 AM on May 16, 2013


As a kid I remember being in Building 19 once, and there was a table piled high with wet underwear.

I bought a yellow rubber radioactive haz-mat suit and mask there once. It had air vents under the arms.

I cannot find it anywhere. WHY WAS HE CALLED "SPAG"?

Borgatti > Spaghetti > Spag.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:14 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Printers that don't work? Prison jumpsuits? Cheap champagne? This thread feels like reading an obituary for somebody you were always meant to meet but tragically it wasn't meant to be.

I cannot find it anywhere. WHY WAS HE CALLED "SPAG"?


Borgatti-> spaghetti -> Spag

(I have no proof of this but it was totally the first thing I thought upon reading the thread.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:14 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


We went to Spag's a few times when visiting relatives "up North" (which is to say, the top part of Rhode Island which was light years away from Aquidneck Island). I am both sorry to hear of its passing and shocked it still existed. Where do I contribute to keep Benny's in business?
posted by yerfatma at 9:15 AM on May 16, 2013


Ask a question, get the answer in stereo. Cool!
posted by grubi at 9:16 AM on May 16, 2013


There is/was also a section full of canned foods a month away for their expiration date! And a huge selection of Persian rugs, for some reason I still haven't figured out.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:17 AM on May 16, 2013


As a kid I remember being in Building 19 once, and there was a table piled high with wet underwear. It was on sale, of course.

One of the last times I was in Building 19 I was looking at furniture, I opened a draw in a desk and found a soiled diaper covered in fruit flies. I didn't check to see if it was on sale. I just closed the drawer and walked on.

I still hike with a heavyweight polypropylene top that I bought at Building 19 about 25 years ago. It's one of the best pieces of gear I own.

My first and only time shoplifting was at Building 19. I stole a handheld LED video game thing that didn't even work. I have no idea why I thought it would be worth stealing, but there you go. Sorry, Jerry.
posted by bondcliff at 9:17 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I cannot find it anywhere. WHY WAS HE CALLED "SPAG"?

From page 69 of SPAG, An American Business Legend:

Well, Anthony did, at least, acquire the nickname "Spag" in high school due to his well-known fondness for spaghetti and to a slip of the tongue.
posted by grog at 9:19 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Where do I contribute to keep Benny's in business?

Um, the cash register?

Donate today and they'll probably even give you a keepsake, like an oil filter, flimsy children's toy, or structurally unsound deck chair!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:23 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Building 19, along with Chuck-E-Cheese, was a mythical destination to me as a kid; there weren't any anywhere near where I grew up, and my family didn't tend to go much further east than Worcester for things so I only experienced them vicariously from classmates' glowing Monday morning descriptions.
posted by usonian at 9:25 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


What is this about bins labeled prison and MA? Please explain this. Was it stuff from a prison? For a prison but overstock? Some sort of gimmick?
posted by sio42 at 9:28 AM on May 16, 2013


With the Higgins Armory and Spags gone, my youthful affections for the Worcester area are pretty much kaput. Once a week my Dad would go there, and fill up a canvas tote bag with drawing pads, creosote remover, stretch-tight, etc. He'd walk in the house and put that tote bag in the middle of the kitchen floor, and we'd delight to see what was inside. We used to say that my dad found us kids at Spags.
posted by bendybendy at 9:37 AM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


My wife once saw racks and racks full of orange prison jumpsuits for sale there.

There's a Building 19 in Manchester now, on Hanover, but when I was a kid, the location was the old building at Mammoth Road (which, appropriately, had a giant painting of a mammoth on the side, done up in the same loose, loopy art style as the Jerry circulars).

We used to go to the Mammoth Road Building 19 all the time in early high-school, usually for cheap snacks and such, but my all-time favorite purchase was this white one-piece jumpsuit with a radiation symbol on it. That thing fucking ruled; I felt like a member of Devo. I used to wear it around on occasion, to the mall or wherever.

Eventually, the jumpsuit sort of "disappeared", which I suspect was the doing of my mom, who HATED the thing. It's okay, though, I got a new one-piece black jumpsuit a couple years back from the new location. Well heavens, I simply look dapper as heck in it.

As a kid I remember being in Building 19 once, and there was a table piled high with wet underwear.

If anyone ever asks me what growing up in southern NH is like, I think I'm just gonna use your comment as my Origin Story.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:43 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Where do I contribute to keep Benny's in business?

Benny's is the best deal for tires - the set I got for my Kia wound up cheaper than BJ's Wholesale and the online retailers, and came with a 2-year warranty that covered road hazards. (This came in real handy when I picked up a deck screw on the highway a month after I bought them.)

It's pretty much where you'd go for Walmart type stuff, and they charge right about what Walmart charges, but they have salespeople around, and they keep the place stocked and clean.

They actually have one on the Island now.

And you haven't lived until you've been to the Building19 in New Bedford. The one in Warwick is actually kinda nice and upscale by comparison.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:17 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure Benny's will do fine purely through selling leaf bags which they seem to have a state sanctioned monopoly over.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:21 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


This may be a slight threadjack, but as long as there is a concentration of people reminiscing about greater Worcester back in the day: Did anyone ever actually go inside the Capitol Toy Company on Chandler Street? My family drove by it once in a while and it looked about as sinister as a toy store can look. It's boarded up and closed in the linked photo, but it also looked that way when it was still open.
posted by usonian at 10:23 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


usonian: My family drove by it once in a while and it looked about as sinister as a toy store can look.

Holy shit, you ain't kidding. That would give Stephen King the willies. There is no way that that place is not an abduction factory.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:29 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Um, the cash register?

Thanks, I was stuck up until now. I'm not too worried about Benny's as long as my Dad has a dog that likes to chase tennis balls.
posted by yerfatma at 10:52 AM on May 16, 2013


Loved Spag's, before I lived in Wrcester it was always the last place I would stop before I left town (yeah, it's in Shrewsbury, but...)

I bought a orange prison jumpsuit there. I also bought a tent for $6 that made it through exactly one muddy festival. I also once got 10 pounds of dry roasted peanuts for like 8 bucks. So many random good things and SO CHEAP.

That said, they lost me as Building 19. It became less cool cheap random fun stuff and much more like a really rundown version of the Christmas Tree Shops.

I'm sad or another empty building and for the folks who will lose their jobs (especially those who have worked there for decades), but I won't personally miss the place. Spag's died with "Spag" Borgotti.
posted by rollbiz at 10:52 AM on May 16, 2013


Did anyone ever actually go inside the Capitol Toy Company on Chandler Street?

Never saw that, but I spent my whole childhood longing to go to some toy store in far-away Worcester because they advertised on TV38 and Channel 56 ("LVI is part of living!") that they were the only place in America stocking the cool Japanese toys from the mech shows on before school. My parents did not share my enthusiasm for the trip.
posted by yerfatma at 10:54 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


>the only place in America stocking the cool Japanese toys from the mech shows on before school

That's Entertainment! man that place rules.

also, Building 19 ain't got nothing on Zyla's down in Merrimack, NH. That place was a filthy discount shitshow.
posted by xbonesgt at 11:00 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mr. Big Toyland was the one I was DYING to get to.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:02 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Mr. Big Toyland (on Moody Street in Waltham!) always seemed like an impossibly cool and faraway place, and I never did find a way to talk a grown up into taking me there. Although in the mid-late 80's, Spag's had a small selection of those awesome Godaikin giant transforming robot toys too! I saved up chore money, birthday money, etc. to buy Daltanias.
posted by usonian at 11:13 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Central Mass., and Spag's and Charlie's Surplus were sort of the guiding spirits of the whole region. Worcester County is still one of the cheapest and most conservative parts of New England, and I love it. When I went off to college, my dad took me to Spag's and we got all of the dorm room gear I would need. It was like WalMart, but cool, because it was no frills, no bags, no atmosphere, just a bunch of random stuff piled on shelves and tables. I'm sad it's gone, or going.
posted by walter lark at 11:14 AM on May 16, 2013


Memories of Mr. Big Toyland
posted by usonian at 11:17 AM on May 16, 2013


When I was homeschooling, and we lived in Webster, about 30 minutes south of Shrewsbury, a trip to Spags always meant new workbooks, sketch pads and posters. They had a great teacher supply section, for some reason. (This may have been post Building 19). After a trip to Elm Park for a play date my kids would clamor to go to the Panera in White City for lunch and to Spags for...stuff.

Now we live a hop skip and a jump from a Benny's near the shopping mecca that is Rt 1 off of 295. We like to buy Benny's t-shirts for out of town friends. They and Ocean State Job Lot are really the only game in town anymore if you like your retail slightly weird.
posted by Biblio at 11:42 AM on May 16, 2013


Here in NC they have a chain called Ollie's Bargain Outlet [Warning: sound effects] (which my brain insists on calling Uncle Ollie's for some reason) which seems to literally have bought their business plan from Bldg 19, right down to the flyers and caricatures. The merchandise is at the same level as well: weird toys, horrible books, janky tools and lots of rugs(?). It doesn't have the same level of fun, though. The merchandise is just too predictably worthless. No surprises or discoveries. Maybe Bldg 19 is the same way now that the "job lot" industry is more mature, I haven't been there in at least 10 or 15 years.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:05 PM on May 16, 2013


My father shopped regularly at Capitol Toys for some reason when I was little (Toys 'r' Us hadn't opened in Auburn yet) and it was kind of a spartan toy store on the inside. The clown definitely creeped me right out when I was young. I think they closed by the end of the 1980s.

Spag's on a Saturday night was like a rock show crowd. Just wall to wall people in the 1970s and 1980s, trying to hold on to someone's hand was near impossible. Even before Spag's death it had been fading quickly though. Our trips to Spag's were replaced with trips to BJ's Warehouse once they opened in Westboro in the late 80s.

The Building 19 folks never really knew what to do with the place, and it quickly devolved into just another 19 store. Tons of land with the complex and there are plans for condos which I'm sure will help the Building 19 folks make their money back. I'm pretty sure the real estate down turn four years ago is the only reason it's still open until tomorrow.
posted by inthe80s at 12:32 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mr. Big Toyland was the one I was DYING to get to.

Shit, that was the one. That's why we never went too: Worcester we had reason to go to once in a while, but Waltham was past the dragons on our map. I don't know whether to love or abhor the fact we've used a globally-connected network to talk about impossibly parochial nostalgia.
posted by yerfatma at 12:40 PM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, I also remember Spag's "Warehouse", which was just a parking lot filled with trailers. The story was he kept it that way so he wouldn't have to pay structure tax, or whatever tax he would have had to pay on an actual building. Even as a kid I thought that was genius.
posted by bondcliff at 12:42 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


yerfatma: I don't know whether to love or abhor the fact we've used a globally-connected network to talk about impossibly parochial nostalgia.

Fuckin' Robolar.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:44 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saved up chore money, birthday money, etc. to buy Daltanias.

That was my show. I was always let down when they went with the normal 'bot instead of the blue drill guy or the catcher's formation. As an adult I don't know what to make of the fact the guy on the bottom was a catcher.
posted by yerfatma at 12:48 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


The comment Rock Steady linked to encapsulates some of the most deeply-ingrained ephemera of my cartoon-watching youth. (I could have recited that damn Robolar PSA from memory even in the pre-YouTube era.) All that's missing is a mention of Uncle Dale on Channel 56, Battle of the Planets/Star Blazers/Force Five on Channel 25, and the New Years Eve Marx Brothers Marathon with Dana Hersey on Channel 38. Oh, and the R2D2/C3PO anti-smoking PSA. And High Feather, Inside Out, All About You, and other stale 1970s PBS fare on Channel 2.

I don't think I was allowed to watch an inordinate amount of TV as a kid... I think the stuff I did watch just made an impression.
posted by usonian at 1:00 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


A few of my sewing friends buy most of their fabric at Building 19, though I've never had any luck with that. (I did buy a zillion yards of upholstery fabric and piping from my now-local surplus-and-salvage store, for about fifteen bucks. I've already recovered a chair and ottoman and have enough left to do a small sofa.)

My fondest memory of Building 19 has to be the day that a friend and I walked up to a shelf crammed full of what appeared to be ornately turned table-legs, each packed in its own long white box. In closer inspection, we saw that they weren't table-legs but enormous peppermills. I don't remember the price, but I'm sure we wouldn't have spent more than $4 or $5 total on the two we bought.

OF COURSE we bought two. And we stopped at a farmstand on the way home and bought salad fixings, the I filled up the peppermills partway, then we had salad for dinner.

We sat across from each other eating our salads and periodically interrupting our chat with dignified intonations of "Would you care for fresh-ground pepper?" and dispensing said fresh-ground pepper to each other across the table. And then we laughed ourselves sick, over and over, all evening long.

And then the next week, we did it all over again, but with baked potatoes.
posted by Elsa at 1:01 PM on May 16, 2013 [16 favorites]


I went into Capitol plenty of times. Bought my D and D expert set there, and countless presents for other kids birthday parties. I remember it looking like a supermarket, massive high ceiling.

I have a hazy memory of my mom talking to an old man who ran it or owned it. Maybe they were greeks.

I admit it looked creepy on the outside but my heart breaks when I drive by it these days. My grandmother lived at Chandler and June, so going past there meant going to her house. Or coming back from school when I went to St. Johns in Shrewsbury. We lived in Paxton.

They always had big, big bags of green army guys.

Spag's, of course had the AD and D hardcover books, PH, DM Guide, MM etc. about ten bucks cheaper than anywhere else in central Mass. Take that, Fab Fic bookstore!

I also shopped at That's Entertainment, I can't remember the names but I got to know those guys fairly well.

Thanks for this. Lots of groovy memories here.
posted by vrakatar at 1:30 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


usonian: I don't think I was allowed to watch an inordinate amount of TV as a kid... I think the stuff I did watch just made an impression.

There was just so little of it, you had to treasure it. You had 2 or 3 hours in the afternoon on 56 before the Barney Miller and Good Times re-runs, and then Saturday Morning Cartoons until the televisual death knell that was Candlepin Bowling. I remind my daughter frequently that when I was her age there was literally Nothing On for most of the day, on any channel, instead of ten or a dozen networks aimed 24-7 at kids.

vrakatar: Spag's, of course had the AD and D hardcover books, PH, DM Guide, MM etc. about ten bucks cheaper than anywhere else in central Mass.

What? How did I not know that? I was stuck paying cover price at Waldenbooks like a damn fool.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:39 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Greg Nog, are we talking...like...Venture Bros speedsuit?!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:42 PM on May 16, 2013


Elsa's anecdote sounds like a Frog and Toad story, but with more peppermills.
posted by dr_dank at 1:55 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


With Spag's on the brain all day I'm realizing the place really was a childhood touchstone for me. Two more reasons Spag's was awesome: Around Christmas time they could be relied upon to stock Ferrara Torrone, which is a holiday family tradition inherited from my italian great grandfather. The stuff is a little easier to find now, but nobody else had it in the 80s.

Second, when Ocean Pacific t-shirts were an absolute must-have thing, they would be perpetually sold out everywhere. I remember looking diligently for months. Finally, I found one at Spag's! My parents rolled their eyes, but bought it for me. (While it didn't magically transform me into one of the cool kids, I thought maybe it made me a little bit less uncool.)
posted by usonian at 2:09 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't remember the price, but I'm sure we wouldn't have spent more than $4 or $5 total on the two we bought.

Every year, my family has a Yankee Swap for Christmas Eve, usually with a price limit of ten bucks. Probably a third of the participants end up buying something nice, a third get some random tchotchke from a drugstore or something, and about a third go directly to Building 19, because you end being like, "HA HA, YESSS, SOME POOR FUCKER'S GETTING FOUR YARD-LONG PEPPERCORN GRINDERS"

So during the opening of the gifts, there's often one or two people who saw each of the Building 19 gifts when they were in the store, considered them, and then passed them over. "Ah, nice... I was thinking about buying that 8-dollar penguin sculpture, but ended up settling on the trivet that said Home Is Where We Live In A House instead."
posted by Greg Nog at 2:18 PM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


The guys in my family don't get to do the Yankee Swap anymore after the year everyone bought a $25 Best Buy gift card.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:29 PM on May 16, 2013


"HA HA, YESSS, SOME POOR FUCKER'S GETTING FOUR YARD-LONG PEPPERCORN GRINDERS"

I didn't realize until just this moment, but I lived my 20s like a decade-long Yankee Swap errand, always in search of the most ridiculous thing I could buy for a few dollars. Oh, the sinking sensation...






... then I remember how much fun we had using those peppermills and IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT.
posted by Elsa at 3:11 PM on May 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


I didn't realize until just this moment, but I lived my 20s like a decade-long Yankee Swap errand, always in search of the most ridiculous thing I could buy for a few dollars.

Like the five foot tall inflatable novelty store display lava lamp I triumphantly acquired for my dorm room for something like $5. Do you have any idea how much space a five foot tall inflatable lava lamp takes up in a dorm room? Nowhere near as much space as the three dimensional illuminated Interview With the Vampire cardboard movie theater standee display.
posted by usonian at 5:29 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe Bldg 19 is the same way now that the "job lot" industry is more mature, I haven't been there in at least 10 or 15 years.

I think this is most certainly the case. Whether it's because there's more players in the industry now or because the cool junk isn't being liquidated as often, Building 19 isn't what it used to be.

I remember when Building 19 bought up a ton of computer hardware from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. In addition to stacks and stacks of IBM PS/2s and old Bernoulli drives they had...hand print security scanners for $500! My local store even set one unit up as a demonstration along with a similarly priced mail slot letter bomb detector.

Nowadays it's just 1980s dead stock and "My Magical Pony" coloring books the whole way down.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:22 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


There was just so little of it, you had to treasure it. You had 2 or 3 hours in the afternoon on 56 before the Barney Miller and Good Times re-runs, and then Saturday Morning Cartoons until the televisual death knell that was Candlepin Bowling.

For me it was Candlepin Bowling on Saturdays, and those first few maudlin notes of the weekday WSBK Punky Brewster rerun. If I didn't have the television turned off before it got to "maybe the world is blind" I considered it a personal failure.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:32 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I used to work at an education program in Charlton, MA, and our weekly "Spag's run" is how we kept stocked up on duct tape, glue, batteries, Wint-O-Green LifeSavers, Crayola markers, candles, bandannas, poker chips, and all of our other random program supplies. After a week teaching field studies in the woods it was an overwhelming joy to wander its creaky aisles looking at all the stuff.

Damn, I was just going to recommend that people in that area who like oddball retail should also check out the Charlton Mills Box Factory - but the internet is telling me it closed recently.
posted by Miko at 6:34 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


When windows started falling out of the Hancock tower in Boston before it opened, Building 19 bought a bunch of them and sold them.
posted by adamg at 7:04 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Spag's was the greatest. I remember him giving out a couple of trailer loads of Tomato plants, six to a customer each spring. You had to bring your own container for them. Part of his success was due to buying by the trailer truck load, storing that stock in the trailer and sometimes selling that stuff right out of the trailer in the parking lot. In the springtime, a line of trailers in the yard each with a different item, trailer 1 would have lawn fertilizer, trailer 2 would have seed packages, etc.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 9:40 PM on May 16, 2013


Fuckin' Robolar.

"I'm from Mahhs and I eat only candybahhs..."
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:48 AM on May 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just had a memory of my local Building 19 (1/5) having a giant stock of something and having no clue what they were. So, rather than sell them, they were offering to pay people to take them. They would give you $.01 for every one you took. I think they had a limit of 100 per customer. They were big, too. I think they were the plastic thing that held a coffee filter in a cheap knock-off Mr. Coffee, but nobody really knew for sure.
posted by bondcliff at 5:41 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


usonian: Do you have any idea how much space a five foot tall inflatable lava lamp takes up in a dorm room? Nowhere near as much space as the three dimensional illuminated Interview With the Vampire cardboard movie theater standee display.

How does it compare to my five foot-tall plus Pillsbury Doughboy that refuses to stand upright on his pudgy legs and oddly reminds me of the first few lines of Ozymandias? And can you express that in Rhode Islands, please?
posted by wenestvedt at 5:42 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


(That doughboy arrived in New England seated in a Volkswagen Jetta, itself loaded into the back of a 40-foor moving van that managed to navigate the side streets of Kenmore Square. Don't try to tell me that Poppin' Fresh lacks style!)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:30 AM on May 17, 2013


Saw my folks today and got some more info on Capitol. The man I recall my mom chatting with was an Armenian fellow who worked there. The owner, according to my dad, was Jewish. My dad worked a few catering jobs for the family (as part of the Eden, I imagine, or maybe Circe's.) He said they also owned Arrow Wholesale, about which I found the following on WoMag's site:

Arrow Wholesale Company, who ships products, toys and nick knacks to five and dime stores around the country, functions as a 40,000 square foot time capsule. Elliott Ginsburg, the company’s owner, has an extensive private collection of toys, ads and trinkets, but directs any collectors to O’Brien’s 5 & 10 in Elliott Ginsburg, owner of Arrow Wholesale Company, holds a bottle of Window Wax in his warehouse.Northborough. “These items became scarce because if the big box stores didn’t carry them then no one wanted to buy them,” he says, pointing to cleaning supplies and toys from the ‘80s, ‘90s and earlier.

Link.
posted by vrakatar at 2:56 PM on May 18, 2013


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