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Retail Therapy
January 11, 2007 7:44 AM   Subscribe

Creativity, Inc: Dave Eggers of McSweeney's is a proprietor. A shopkeeper. Perhaps even a franchise magnate! It was his keen perception of unmet needs in niche markets that led to the opening of a growing array of supply houses across the country. Among them: The Pirate Store, for the well-outfitted swashbuckler; The Boring Store, a subtle, unassuming purveyor of goods for secret agents; the Superhero Supply Store, in Brooklyn, carrying all the eyewear and accessories today's world-savers require; and Greenwood Space Travel Supply, where customers are reminded of the space-travel axiom "A lack of preparation is a prescription for mishaps." If these sound like curious business ventures for a celebrated author, there's a reason: the storefronts, though real, are just that - fronts. They're the streetside faces (and fundraising arms) of the nonprofit 826National, a family of learning centers for kids ages 6-18. The 826 'stores' provide free field trips, creatively themed writing workshops, publishing, and one-on-one instruction. Supported by an impressive field of cultural types (including Ira Glass, Sarah Vowell, Sherman Alexie, and others), the program is growing. Coming soon: Michigan 826 will open Monster Union Local 826, and 826LA will open the Echo Park Time Travel Mart.
posted by Miko (51 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Eggers is obviously talented, and smart, and funny, and industrious, and he bugs the hell out of me.
posted by everichon at 7:49 AM on January 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Nice collection.

The thing that I find interesting about Eggers these days is how politicized he's become in the past few years. Well, politicized isn't the exact word. Politically engaged? The new novel's a lot more concerned with real-world problems than his previous thing about two guys travelling around the world in a cloud of self-absorption. And while my wife and I were paging through the Eggers-edited Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006, I was surprised at how much current-events presence there was.... aside from the usual inclusion fo one or two long-form news essays, there was some sort of topical (usually anti-Bush) reference in most of the stories/essays. And he included the Iraqi constitution!

Not saying that any of this is bad; if anything, it's a welcome sign of growth. But it's definitely interesting.
posted by COBRA! at 8:00 AM on January 11, 2007


I think these "stores" (especially how they skirt zoning rules) are a brilliant idea, and I hope they succeed.

I'm also personally looking forward to picking up Eggers' new book this weekend, when both the subject of the book (Valentino Achak Deng) and Eggers come on Saturday.
posted by drezdn at 8:12 AM on January 11, 2007


Egger's willingness to potentially bungle things is an inspiration to me. That he actually bungles things is the cracking eggs for some pretty worthwhile omletiering.
posted by I Foody at 8:12 AM on January 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


So, the reason for the wacky and clever storefronts is to get by zoning limitations in order to educate young people? Could someone explain this to the tragically unhip?
posted by craniac at 8:14 AM on January 11, 2007


I think that's pretty much it Craniac.
posted by drezdn at 8:24 AM on January 11, 2007


an error in the joke from the pirate store, corrected:

“Knock knock”
“Who’s there?”
"I'm a pile-up"
“I’m a pile-up who?”
“You are?”
posted by eustatic at 8:25 AM on January 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just posted a photoset from the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store ... check it out if you like. Relevant blog post here, if you care to.
posted by chinese_fashion at 8:25 AM on January 11, 2007


Another reason for the wacky and clever storefronts could be that: they are awesome. And they're likely to a) entice kids into coming in and checking things out, and b) draw revenue from adults like me, who just bought a $15 can of paint thinner or something because it was labelled "light speed" in a clever fashion. And a few books. And a poster.

If it helps the kids read, great ...
posted by chinese_fashion at 8:29 AM on January 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I walked into the Brooklyn store and was so charmed by the presentation (and impressed by the mission) that I walked out with a t-shirt and a book. I was a little shy about the purchasing process, though. One of the women working there had to enlist a little girl to "help" me get through my superhero vows. Which is required before the voice from on high will drop your purchases (and credit card slip) from on high, through the pneumatic tube or whatever it was.
posted by pinky at 8:32 AM on January 11, 2007


This is absolutely awesome!
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:35 AM on January 11, 2007


COBRA!, this one's for you.

I read something about the 826 groups once before, and I think it was here, so this might be a quasi dupe.

FWIW, I also am simultaneously respectful of an intimidated by Dave Eggers. There are many worse folks in the world. I would just like to have it that together for a couple of weeks.
posted by lodurr at 8:35 AM on January 11, 2007


This is the first I've heard of Eggers, or any of these activities. What I've seen so far looks fascinating. Thanks for this post, Miko.

BTW, as a former Brooklynite, I'd love to know exactly where the Superhero shop is. Can anyone please inform?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:36 AM on January 11, 2007


wow, thanks for the great post. and CF, thanks for the great photoset. The store reminds me of everything I love about Disneyland, but its for a non-evil cause. win - win!
posted by teishu at 8:38 AM on January 11, 2007


Aha, I now see from the blog post from chinese_fashion that it's Park Slope. Now I wanna know EXACTLY where in Park Slope! Anybody?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:38 AM on January 11, 2007


Dave Eggers once drew me a picture. *swoon*

flapjax, click the link. It's at 372 Fifth Ave. I wish the Superhero Supply Store had an online store (as the Pirate Store does).
posted by amro at 8:41 AM on January 11, 2007


372 5th av. It's pretty awesome. They have a "cape testing area".
posted by fidgets at 8:41 AM on January 11, 2007


flapjax, click the link

duh. how embarassing. Thanks amro and fidgets!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2007


COBRA!, this one's for you.


heh. actually, that one is me.
posted by COBRA! at 8:47 AM on January 11, 2007


I go back and forth with Eggers the writer, but I'm a big fan of Eggers the person.

I've been volunteering at 826 in San Francisco for a couple years now. It's the way I can work with kids and feel like I'm actually doing something worthwhile. I'm too disheveled to be a "teacher," in any real sense of the word, but too straightlaced to be taken too seriously at one of those at-risk-kid centers. This is just right.

And maybe it's the way education should look. It's loud. There are lots of kids talking to each other and laughing and drinking soda and throwing things. And yet, they're reading. And doing algebra. And asking the tutors really hard questions.

By the way, another benefit of the gimmick stores, aside from the ones listed above, is that they help alleviate any mystery among adults about "what's going on in there." It's right downtown, you can walk in and look around, it's comfortable.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:49 AM on January 11, 2007


Dave Eggers once drew me a picture.

McSweeneys once rejected my submission.
posted by cortex at 9:03 AM on January 11, 2007


Not sure about the other stores, but Sam Potts did most of the design for the Superhero Supply Store.
posted by gwint at 9:14 AM on January 11, 2007


McSweeneys once rejected my submission.

Pssh. They rejected several of mine.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 9:28 AM on January 11, 2007


Visited the Park Slope store a few years back. It was styled kind of like an apothecary then, not sure if that's the case now. Anyway, came a couple of steps in the door, all these bewildering things neatly labeled everywhere, banks of old-school apothecary drawers along the walls. I pulled one open at random. The little sign card said "T. Rex playing chess (Game in Progress)." The drawer was set up like a diorama, two tiny dinosaur figurines seated at a chess table. Some of the ultra-tiny chess pieces were piled to the sides of the board - the game was in progress.

Charmed? Oh yes, quite. It was like wondering into the curiosity shop in an old children's book.

Eggers attracts a lot of sneering heat - basically for being so well-liked and prolific, near as I can tell - but one thing I don't think you can fault him for is what he's done with the attention he's been given. He publishes new writers, helps kids with their reading, and creates magical urban retail spaces. Hard to argue with any of that.
posted by gompa at 9:41 AM on January 11, 2007


... attracts a lot of sneering heat - basically for being so well-liked and prolific, near as I can tell....

Some of us mean that sneering as a compliment, of course.
posted by lodurr at 9:51 AM on January 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is there any more info on the Echo Park Time Travel Mart? I don't see much info online.. I'm assuming it's not open yet, but I'd like to know where it's going to be.
posted by dvdgee at 9:52 AM on January 11, 2007


I go back and forth with Eggers the writer, but I'm a big fan of Eggers the person.

That's it exactly for me. I am constantly impressed how he jumps into these improbable ventures that would just seem like a daydream if someone described them to you as a business plan. The writing itself is sort of secondary to me.

Has anyone read his new one yet? About the refugee from Africa? Looks completely different than his previous writing.
posted by Mid at 9:53 AM on January 11, 2007


Re: the zoning - the locations he chooses generally have some sort of land use regulations that require ground floor retail so as to preserve the commercial character of the street. So, by putting the store in the the front and therefore occupying the street frontage with a retail use, even if it's not a profitable use, the writing workshop in the back is allowable.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:33 AM on January 11, 2007


McSweeneys once rejected my submission.

Pssh. They rejected several of mine.



Hundreds. Hundreds. You'd think I'd have learned sooner.

I admire the hell out of Eggers, who pours the proceeds from most of his projects into the 826 organization, and whose sense of humor I have always appreciated since the days of Might magazine.
posted by eustacescrubb at 10:34 AM on January 11, 2007


gompa, that was the old McSweeney's store you visited, back when 826 was a mere gleam in Eggers' eye. The super-hero shop is still in Park Slope but in a different location: 5th Ave. instead of 7th. The old McSweeney's store, according to this, is now defunct. Can any New Yorkers confirm or deny? I, too, visited the apothecary-style shop and was filled with glee.

Mid, I am almost finished Eggers' new book and it is truly excellent. It is different from his previous writing because it's not about Eggers. Eggers is acting as a facilitator, helping Valentino Achak Deng tell his story and most importantly, knowing when to get out of the way.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:34 AM on January 11, 2007


Probably in one of the annual Pirate Day threads, where it has shown up with some regularity.

I did my due diligence, but thought the direction of this post (being about 826 itself) was different enough from pirate-store posts not to consitute a true double.
posted by Miko at 11:21 AM on January 11, 2007


Er, that comment just now was in response to the note about whether the post was a duplicate.
posted by Miko at 11:22 AM on January 11, 2007


McSweeneys once rejected my submission.

Pssh. They rejected several of mine.

Hundreds. Hundreds. You'd think I'd have learned sooner.


I got rejected as an 826 volunteer.

Granted, I have a freakishly large skull.
posted by pokermonk at 12:19 PM on January 11, 2007


Has anyone read his new one yet? About the refugee from Africa? Looks completely different than his previous writing.

I've read it and it's completely amazing. I love the hell out of Eggers anyway, but this one is just... better somehow than his previous novels. I was expecting Eggers as ghost-writer to be awkward, but it wasn't at all. It was superbly written and the story is amazing. I alternated between laughing and being nearly brought to tears by the whole thing.

In other news: Have You Got Scurvy? from the Pirate Store. Awesome.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:37 PM on January 11, 2007


Also, I think Guidelines for New Shipmates should be required of new of MeFites - I've got "bring your own citrus" covered!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:40 PM on January 11, 2007


>>>McSweeneys once rejected my submission.

>>Pssh. They rejected several of mine.

>Hundreds. Hundreds. You'd think I'd have learned sooner.

I got rejected as an 826 volunteer.


Powell's Books refused to sell me a copy of A Heartbreaking Work and asked me to leave.
posted by cortex at 12:55 PM on January 11, 2007


>>>>McSweeneys once rejected my submission.

>>>Pssh. They rejected several of mine.

>>Hundreds. Hundreds. You'd think I'd have learned sooner.

>I got rejected as an 826 volunteer.

Powell's Books refused to sell me a copy of A Heartbreaking Work and asked me to leave.


They ripped up the copy I asked to buy, then followed me home, where they promptly burned my copies of McSweeney's, The Believer, every Dave Egger's book, and then Sean Wilsey's soccer book — just to be thorough. Then they kicked my dog on the way out.
posted by drezdn at 1:08 PM on January 11, 2007


They have a blog, too, you know. A friend of mine used to work for them -- here's two of her blog posts.
posted by chinese_fashion at 1:09 PM on January 11, 2007


Please forgive my misplacement of certain punctuation.
posted by drezdn at 1:12 PM on January 11, 2007


They have a blog, too, you know.

Do they use it to document their numerous offenses against drezdn, cortex, pokermonk, eustacescrubb, and Terminal_Verbosity?
posted by lodurr at 1:27 PM on January 11, 2007


You're goddam right they do, the cruel bastards.
posted by cortex at 1:31 PM on January 11, 2007


Oh, wait, looks like Reputation Defender took care of it.
posted by cortex at 1:32 PM on January 11, 2007


Attention members of "Meta Filter". We would like to inform you that we have blotted the user you call "eustacescrubb" from existence. His prose was terrifyingly bad, and his poetry, his poetry, we cannot speak of it without the night terrors returning.

yours,


The Staff of 826/McSweeneys/Believer/Wholphin
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:53 PM on January 11, 2007


Here's an excerpt from the most recent volunteer newsletter:

LOL, did you hear abotu what we did to that cortex guy???/ TUTOALLY P4WNED!1 ROFLcopter

The bookmaking class is going extremely well, but we could still use some more volunteers on Thursdays...

posted by roll truck roll at 6:49 PM on January 11, 2007


Gawd I loved that./

To think I have Staggering... on top, next to read. So that's whom Eggers is. I'm looking foward to it.

News Flash: If Deck Is Salty ]I hear ya grapefruitmoon[

Thanks Miko
posted by alicesshoe at 6:54 PM on January 11, 2007


Ah, Dave Eggers. He's like David Foster Wallace, but sane.
posted by iamck at 11:53 AM on January 12, 2007


Gompa, I used to frequent that old McSweeney's store. I think it was called "Store". I miss that place, though the new Super Hero supply store (at 5th Ave. and 5th street if that helps) is just as great. Just a bit less mysterious.

There were a lot of fun book release parties at that original McSweeney's Store. I saw a screening of Arthur Bradfords incredible How's Your News in that tiny space and saw the band One Ring Zero perform at several of those sidewalk events on cool summer nights.
posted by JBennett at 2:04 PM on January 12, 2007


I worked with Eggers at MIGHT. Incidentally, after flying to San Francisco to work with Kelly on WIRED, while working with Fairey on GIANT. This all led to working with Ecko on ECKO.

And now look at them all, and I am here in Key West. But I have a new girlfriend!
posted by mongonikol at 7:01 PM on January 15, 2007


And her name is Holly.
posted by mongonikol at 7:02 PM on January 15, 2007


You left out the most important detail — is she cute?
posted by drezdn at 6:43 AM on January 16, 2007


My sister used to say that 'cute' meant 'short and fat.' Yes I am aware that nobody asked...
posted by lodurr at 10:06 AM on January 16, 2007


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