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#1
Old 10-27-2014, 02:08 PM
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Lets reminisce about Spencer Gifts in the 80s.

My mother was a Spencers girl in the mid to late 80's. There. I said it. It's true.

I was 10-14 years old when she worked there. I didn't understand what she was doing or why. I remember getting dropped off at the mall by my dad to go get some pretzel sticks from Hot Sam's. I walked into the Spencers next to Musicland to see my mom and there was a line of people waiting to check out with items that I still vividly remember to this day:

Whoopie cushions,
Slutty nurse costume,
Body condom,
Petuli scented oils/incense/stickers,
A Freddy Kruger poster,
Comical beer mugs,
Batman belt buckles,
Sesame Street backpacks,
Fake poop,
Hard hat with beer holders on top,
lava lamp,
disco lamp,
A ball cap with two hands on it that you pulled strings and it clapped,
A ball cap with a fan built into the brim,
A ball cap with fake poop on it.

I remember sneaking to the back section of the store to look at all the pseudosextoys. Lots of cheap nylon stockings, sexboard games. Sensual oils. Calendars. Fuzzy handcuffs. Mens thongs.

There was an entire section of the store devoted to hilarious Over the Hill trinkets like keychains, hats, posters, cards, shirts, mugs, glasses, buttons.

There was a whole section devoted to Tim Burtons BATMAN. I'm convinced this section broke off and became Hot Topic.

My mom worked there. Yep. Pretty cool. Those were the days...

Last edited by Cubsfan; 10-27-2014 at 02:11 PM.
#2
Old 10-27-2014, 02:17 PM
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There's still a Spencer's in my local mall, or there was the last time I was there, a few months ago.

I think they're pretty much still exactly like they were in the 80s.
#3
Old 10-27-2014, 02:23 PM
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Yeah, but my mom worked there. She doesn't work in the one in your mall. And does it stock hand buzzers and beanbag chairs??

There was a photo booth right outside in the hallway. And a Hot Sam's pretzel place right across the way. I think there was a Things Remembered next door where you could get things engraved.
#4
Old 10-27-2014, 02:25 PM
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I was in a Spencers at a mall just a few years ago. The staff rushed right up to help me, and stayed with me to see I got what I wanted, cleared a register for me, and saw me to the door. My guess is, nobody at Spencers wants the image of the store to include gray-haired 60-year old men standing around. I could be overly sensitive, but... {Oh, I was getting something Harley Quinn-related (not a sex toy) for my daughter.}
#5
Old 10-27-2014, 02:27 PM
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Lord. My three-year-old likes to go in there to look at the fancy light-up party gadgets. They're right beside the naughty bachelorette section. I foresee this becoming a problem in the near future.
#6
Old 10-27-2014, 02:28 PM
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There was a Newbury Comics around here that seemed to fill that niche.
#7
Old 10-27-2014, 02:36 PM
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God. Spencer's. I believe there's still one here - if I ever need to get a greeting card with a morbidly obese woman on it in a bikini, or a giant puzzle of a wizard and a dragon, or a sleazy sex-themed board game, I'll be upset if it isn't there anymore.
#8
Old 10-27-2014, 02:41 PM
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According to their website, they still operate over 600 stores in the US.

Considering the state of retail shopping malls, and the fact they ONLY seem to operate within enclosed shopping malls, that's pretty darn impressive.

They've branched out into seasonal Halloween stores as well, and I don't know whether those are included in their "count" or not.

Seems like I recall hearing several years ago that Spencer's was in big trouble financially, but apparently they're still plugging along.
#9
Old 10-27-2014, 02:46 PM
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I believe Spencer's is where people bought their Pet Rock.

I always liked to go there and look at the posters. (Especially the one of the female tennis player)

I think we bought our Lava Lamp from there.
#10
Old 10-27-2014, 02:47 PM
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I'd never heard of Spencers until they opened one at the mall in my city recently.

I call it Hot Topic's perverted little brother.

Closest thing we had in the 80's was The It Store.
#11
Old 10-27-2014, 02:53 PM
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I remember the animal themed men's underwear. Specifically the elephant ones. Totally different definition of junk in the trunk.
#12
Old 10-27-2014, 02:55 PM
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Someone opened a store in my small town that was sort of like Spencer's, but I think without the "naughty" section. I remember going in there and it was just an explosion of bright colors, sounds, and even smells. I really wanted to buy a crazy pen or something.

But like with Spencer's (which was/is in our malls) everything was just slightly too expensive for me. Especially because nothing ever seemed to have a purpose. So I don't remember buying anything at the local shop or Spencer's. And I don't know that the local shop lasted more than a year.

Boy did I love to browse there, though!

There's a chain store now called 5 Below which, to me has the same sort of "burst of color" feeling to it. It doesn't have all the cheeky stuff that Spencer's has but you can get your funny magnets and your WWE posters there, your silly tee shirts and candy in weird containers. Plus boring stuff like crayons and basketballs. And everything is $5 or less.

I like that for a fun pick-me-up shopping trip, even if I don't buy anything.
#13
Old 10-27-2014, 02:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zebra View Post
I think we bought our Lava Lamp from there.
Pretty sure that's where mine came from too. There's still a Spencer's at the mall, at least I think I remember it being there the last time I was there. I used to love going in there but Mom never wanted us to go in when we were kids.
#14
Old 10-27-2014, 03:08 PM
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I remember when the back third of the store was dark with everything fluorescent/psychadelic and black-lit. They still have a lot of disco balls, party lights, and tie-dye, but I miss those black light days. Look! I glow!
#15
Old 10-27-2014, 03:28 PM
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And here I was thinking of the Spencer catalog of the 1970s that used to entertain the hell out of us. You kids and yer "mall stores."
#16
Old 10-27-2014, 03:52 PM
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I remember them having an awesome Halloween selection when I was a kid. A year or two ago, I went in there with my son (would have been 13ish at the time) and half the place was sex stuff. I remember there being "naughty" stuff back in the day but not nearly as much as now. Anyway, we made a fairly quick exit and went to one of those temporary Halloween shops that rent abandoned strip mall space.

Last edited by Jophiel; 10-27-2014 at 03:52 PM.
#17
Old 10-27-2014, 04:12 PM
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I can't believe that store still exists. I used to love going in there as a kid and looking at the nudie cards and sex-related stuff.
#18
Old 10-27-2014, 04:15 PM
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Geez, I remember when the Spencers at IIRC Eastview Mall in Rocheser NY was an out and out head store. Black lights, black light posters, bongs, incense, lava lamps, bead curtains ....
#19
Old 10-27-2014, 04:16 PM
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I cannot believe people still purchase enough things from Spencer's that they continue to be in business. Crazy.

It was THE place to buy gifts for your friends from about 6th grade to 8th grade. And they were the first store (in our area at least) to carry glitter nail polish. Which now, you can buy anywhere. But when it came out (this would be about 1982) it was a BIG DEAL. I saved a lot of allowance money for glitter nail polish from Spencer's.
#20
Old 10-27-2014, 04:20 PM
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Hmm. I wonder what the Toronto equivalent is. "Spence" here is a diamond shop.

Edit: Weirdly, Spencer's lists Canadian cities om their store finder page, but when you click on one, it does its best to find one just across the border, and if it can't, it simply says "no store has been opened YET within 25 miles of the ZIP code <Canadian postal code>"...

Last edited by Sunspace; 10-27-2014 at 04:22 PM.
#21
Old 10-27-2014, 04:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jophiel View Post
I remember them having an awesome Halloween selection when I was a kid. A year or two ago, I went in there with my son (would have been 13ish at the time) and half the place was sex stuff. I remember there being "naughty" stuff back in the day but not nearly as much as now. Anyway, we made a fairly quick exit and went to one of those temporary Halloween shops that rent abandoned strip mall space.
...where only 2/3 of the stuff is "sex stuff." It's hardly news that "sexy _____" has taken over the halloween racks, well down into inappropriate sizes.
#22
Old 10-27-2014, 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Living Well Is Best Revenge View Post
I can't believe that store still exists. I used to love going in there as a kid and looking at the nudie cards and sex-related stuff.
Today's Spencers is sex & drugs. And maybe a little rock and roll. But definitely sex & drugs.
#23
Old 10-27-2014, 04:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunspace View Post
Hmm. I wonder what the Toronto equivalent is. "Spence" here is a diamond shop.

Edit: Weirdly, Spencer's lists Canadian cities om their store finder page, but when you click on one, it does its best to find one just across the border, and if it can't, it simply says "no store has been opened YET within 25 miles of the ZIP code <Canadian postal code>"...
There's one in the Georgian Mall in Barrie.

Hot Topic in the Eaton Centre is similar, minus all the sexystuff.
#24
Old 10-27-2014, 07:19 PM
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I was assistant manager of one in the last 70s. I remember a lot of the items -- lamps, black lights, jewelry, sunglasses, bath, gags, and, of course, the sex toys. I do have a few stories.
  • The woman who wanted to return a vibrator. We were supposed to ask a reason, and she said, it didn't work. After we took it back. I turned it on and it certainly operated fine.
  • The time a bunch of kids were trying to shoplift sunglasses and turned around to see me standing right behind them. The skulked out of the store.
  • Christmas Eve -- the customer who came in five minutes before closing and spent an hour with his Christmas shopping. We couldn't ask him to leave -- against company policy.
  • On our busiest day (the Saturday before Christmas) someone showed up and bought a bunch of items and tried to pay by check. His place of employment was closed. The bank was closed. Luckily, I knew someone who worked at the bank branch and called; she had never heard of him. I had a bad feeling, but nothing concrete, so just for the heck of it, I called his home number. A woman answered and said he only looked at the apartment, and didn't move in. I said I couldn't take his check. He nodded, quietly tore it up, and left. A week or so later, my contact at the bank said he'd been passing bad checks all over the area (including another Spencer Gifts) that day. I may have been the only one who caught on to it.
  • The time my manager was away for training and the other assistant manager came down with measles. I would have had to spend four days there from 9:00 pm to 9:30 pm, but they eventually sent someone to spell me.
  • The little labels. Spencer uses computerized stocking before there were PCs. Everything you bought had a little cardboard sales ticket with a bar code (before the UPD was fully established). We'd tear off the ticket and put it on a spindle (they had a hole for this). If something didn't have the ticket (some items, like jewelry, were too small), you'd write down the five-digit code. At closing, you'd use a pipe cleaner to keep the tickets together, and along with the written sheets, send it to Atlantic City.
  • Tickets ending in "7" were clearance. Their tickets didn't differentiate, so any 97-cent item would have a code of 00097.
  • Inventory day was always Super Bowl Sunday. By the time we got out, the game was just about over. I stopped watching the Super Bowl at that point and still don't watch it.
  • Each "department" in the store had a three-letter code. "GAG" were gag gifts. "BTH" were bath.
  • Our store had a live goldfish in a bowl on display. Despite the fact no one ever fed him, or cleaned the water, or did anything, it lived well over a year.
  • Once someone bought a $200 fiberoptic lamp -- our most expensive item. The next day, he wanted to return it. The manager went crazy trying to convince him to keep it, since the return would look bad.
  • While I was working there, my old boss came in with his kid. Now, my old boss had always been a cheapskate (he later went to jail for fraud). His son wanted a $16 fiberoptic lamp. My boss steered him toward a $7 plastic rainbow lamp. From the look on the son's face, this happened all the time.
I go into the local Spencer Gifts from time to time, but they are far more tacky than they were in the 70s.
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#25
Old 10-28-2014, 01:32 AM
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Wow--I'd forgotteon about Spencer gifts. I haven't been in one for 4 decades. But when I was 13, they were cool!
Especially the black light posters.
But I have a question about the sexual items:
Some of the naughty stuff was....well, intriguing. Yes, back then (late 1970's), the naughty stuff was very mundane by today's standards. But the shop mostly appealed to kids....Was there any kind of official policy, or even legal regulation, about selling certain items to minors?
#26
Old 10-28-2014, 02:10 AM
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Nobody remember those plasma globes? Prominently featured in the 80's classic "My Science Project"?


One of the biggest urban legends in my day (Also the 80's) was, if you knew the secret password, you could buy some killer weed that they kept in the back away from public access. LOL.
#27
Old 10-28-2014, 03:30 AM
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Were the Spencer Catalogs from the same company? I ordered my Christmas presents from that little catalog every year from age 10 to 15. I bought an uncle a little electric defroster for his refrigerator. All kinds of little inexpensive gifts for relatives.

There weren't any sex toys. Or anything naughty that I recall. Here's a sample of a classic catalog. A return address stamp. Tie rack. The earthworm catcher. All kinds of cute novelties that made good gifts. At least I thought they were cool gifts when I was 12.
http://static.squarespace.com/static...1/IMG_8629.jpg
http://static.squarespace.com/static...7/IMG_8628.jpg

I loved this catalog and would spend hours just flipping through the pages and deciding what I'd buy for gifts.

Last edited by aceplace57; 10-28-2014 at 03:32 AM.
#28
Old 10-28-2014, 09:13 AM
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Me and a friend used to shoplift like crazy from the Spencer's in the Phoenix AZ mall in the 80's. Ahh, teenage larceny.
#29
Old 10-28-2014, 09:17 AM
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Ahhh...Spencer's....

Kept me from dying of boredom while Mom looked at clothes in Monkey Wards.

And Hickory Farms kept me from dying of starvation.
#30
Old 10-28-2014, 09:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
Were the Spencer Catalogs from the same company? I ordered my Christmas presents from that little catalog every year from age 10 to 15. I bought an uncle a little electric defroster for his refrigerator. All kinds of little inexpensive gifts for relatives.

There weren't any sex toys. Or anything naughty that I recall. [...]

I loved this catalog and would spend hours just flipping through the pages and deciding what I'd buy for gifts.
All this. The sex toys were limited to the coyly presented "personal vibrator" in the earlier days, with the same very-slightly-MILFy woman massaging her cheek with it.

But you could browse those strange listings for hours. Wall things with Irish sayings. Kitchen gadgets. Furniture sliders. T-shirts with goofy sayings. Aprons of the "Kiss the Cook" variety.

Lava lamps, lightning globes and the more overt sex toys were from much later, maybe the 1990s.

Last edited by Amateur Barbarian; 10-28-2014 at 09:23 AM. Reason: missed the n
#31
Old 10-28-2014, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Sunspace View Post
Hmm. I wonder what the Toronto equivalent is. "Spence" here is a diamond shop.

Edit: Weirdly, Spencer's lists Canadian cities om their store finder page, but when you click on one, it does its best to find one just across the border, and if it can't, it simply says "no store has been opened YET within 25 miles of the ZIP code <Canadian postal code>"...
There was (is?) a Canadian version of Spencer's, called San Francisco Gifts. I don't know if the two companies are related, but the product line is exactly the same. Google is no help - there's almost no way that I know of to filter out all of the San Francisco city search results.

I remember perusing San Francisco in the 80's and 90's in Londonderry mall in Edmonton. Formative experiences!
#32
Old 10-28-2014, 09:57 AM
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I'm absolutely convinced that Spencer's Gifts is a CIA front. There's no other way that so many of them can not only remain open but in the same location where they've been since the '70s even as malls die around them and nobody seems to be buying any Jar-Jar Binks masks, black lights, or fake dog poop there. I think that in the backroom they're either debriefing an ISIS member or guarding a top secret teleportation device to other Spencer's Gifts/CIA storefronts.

Last edited by Sampiro; 10-28-2014 at 09:58 AM.
#33
Old 10-28-2014, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Sampiro View Post
I'm absolutely convinced that Spencer's Gifts is a CIA front. There's no other way that so many of them can not only remain open but in the same location where they've been since the '70s even as malls die around them and nobody seems to be buying any Jar-Jar Binks masks, black lights, or fake dog poop there. I think that in the backroom they're either debriefing an ISIS member or guarding a top secret teleportation device to other Spencer's Gifts/CIA storefronts.
And Vietnamese nail salons and Chinese restaurants are a front for the Triad. There's never enough customers to make them economically viable (especially the salons, with one every two blocks), but they persist and persist.

But hey, that means some CIA spook has to do the books on fake dog poop sales. So there's justice.
#34
Old 10-28-2014, 10:20 AM
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Comedian Gary Gulman on Spencer Gifts

The bit is more refined in his special "In This Economy", but this is link is easier.
#35
Old 10-28-2014, 11:50 AM
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Gad... I worked there during Christmas season many years ago.

Corporate used to this thing called "salt and pull". The store would receive a shipment of merchandise and it was the job of the receivers ( a team of two or more) to conduct an inventory of that shipment against the packing list. Sometimes your shipment contained too many items (salt) or too few (pull), and that any discrepancy must be reported. I was told that the idea was to discourage potential employee theft.

The manager explained to me that EVERY employee was a potential thief and, not only was I to look out for theft by the customers, but keep a sharp eye on my co-workers.

Didn't really instill a "team-member" mentality.
#36
Old 10-28-2014, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by chappachula View Post
Wow--I'd forgotteon about Spencer gifts. I haven't been in one for 4 decades. But when I was 13, they were cool!
Especially the black light posters.
But I have a question about the sexual items:
Some of the naughty stuff was....well, intriguing. Yes, back then (late 1970's), the naughty stuff was very mundane by today's standards. But the shop mostly appealed to kids....Was there any kind of official policy, or even legal regulation, about selling certain items to minors?
I don't recall there were any restrictions. The vibrators were marketed as personal relaxation devices; kids had no idea what they were (they were not designed to look realistic). Most of the other things -- edible panties, and some of the gag gifts -- were coy in their description and I doubt a kid would know what they could be used for.

In any case, the teens who saw these things rarely bought them -- they either picked them up to giggle at or shoplifted them.
#37
Old 10-28-2014, 12:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunspace View Post
Hmm. I wonder what the Toronto equivalent is. "Spence" here is a diamond shop.

Edit: Weirdly, Spencer's lists Canadian cities om their store finder page, but when you click on one, it does its best to find one just across the border, and if it can't, it simply says "no store has been opened YET within 25 miles of the ZIP code <Canadian postal code>"...
Ninja'd

But we still have Spencer's Gifts - there is one in West Ed

Last edited by Poysyn; 10-28-2014 at 12:46 PM.
#38
Old 10-29-2014, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Amateur Barbarian

But hey, that means some CIA spook has to do the books on fake dog poop sales. So there's justice.
Wouldn't be the first time: the CIA has used very realistic looking fake dog poop for drops, homing beacons, and for transmitters. (Can't cite because I'm mobile, but easily googled.)
#39
Old 10-29-2014, 12:04 PM
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Hadn't been in a Spencer Gifts for a good 20 years though there's one not too far away.

I seem to remember that Spencer Gifts and The Sharper Image had a lot more overlap, but it looks like my memory is wrong.
#40
Old 10-29-2014, 01:30 PM
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Sheesh, all these posts and no one has mentioned the absolute staple of Spencers (in my mind anyway, aside from MAYBE sexy greeting cards), that weird thing with all the pins that you would put your hand on and it would show the print of your hand. Gross, i just realized that as a kid i probably put that thing on my face... blech...
#41
Old 10-29-2014, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Clawdio View Post
Sheesh, all these posts and no one has mentioned the absolute staple of Spencers (in my mind anyway, aside from MAYBE sexy greeting cards), that weird thing with all the pins that you would put your hand on and it would show the print of your hand. Gross, i just realized that as a kid i probably put that thing on my face... blech...
And lightning globes. And greeting cards of morbidly obese women in bikinis.

(I'm so old I can remember when Johnny Carson introduced both those things on his show and was entranced with them.)

Last edited by Sampiro; 10-29-2014 at 01:34 PM.
#42
Old 10-29-2014, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Clawdio View Post
Sheesh, all these posts and no one has mentioned the absolute staple of Spencers (in my mind anyway, aside from MAYBE sexy greeting cards), that weird thing with all the pins that you would put your hand on and it would show the print of your hand. Gross, i just realized that as a kid i probably put that thing on my face... blech...
Pin Art. It is still around.
#43
Old 10-29-2014, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by ZipperJJ View Post
Someone opened a store in my small town that was sort of like Spencer's, but I think without the "naughty" section. I remember going in there and it was just an explosion of bright colors, sounds, and even smells. I really wanted to buy a crazy pen or something.

But like with Spencer's (which was/is in our malls) everything was just slightly too expensive for me. Especially because nothing ever seemed to have a purpose. So I don't remember buying anything at the local shop or Spencer's. And I don't know that the local shop lasted more than a year.

Boy did I love to browse there, though!

There's a chain store now called 5 Below which, to me has the same sort of "burst of color" feeling to it. It doesn't have all the cheeky stuff that Spencer's has but you can get your funny magnets and your WWE posters there, your silly tee shirts and candy in weird containers. Plus boring stuff like crayons and basketballs. And everything is $5 or less.

I like that for a fun pick-me-up shopping trip, even if I don't buy anything.
My kids convinced me to check out Five Below. I wanted everything they had! I bought a Seinfeld fridge magnet that reads, "She had man hands".
#44
Old 10-29-2014, 06:45 PM
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the one in my mall also carried a good selection of band shirts as well.
#45
Old 10-29-2014, 08:28 PM
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I wonder what percentage of the iconic Farrah posters were purchased from Spencer's?
#46
Old 10-29-2014, 10:23 PM
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One recently opened not far from where I live. It's in a strip mall, not a regular mall. They now compete with the best of your local sex shops for toys and gadgets, movies too. And with pot being legal in this state, a wide variety of smoking items.
#47
Old 10-30-2014, 11:31 AM
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Spencer's in Tyson's Corner always had one of those boats shaped like a '59 Cadillac high up on a shelf.
#48
Old 10-30-2014, 03:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
Were the Spencer Catalogs from the same company?
From the official site:
Quote:
Originally a mail-order catalog in Easton, PA, Spencer's has been the leader in fun and novel products from the Whoopie Cushion to lava lights. In 1963 Spencer's expanded its reach and opened its first store in the Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, New Jersey where we continue to operate.
#49
Old 10-30-2014, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by bordelond View Post
I seem to remember that Spencer Gifts and The Sharper Image had a lot more overlap, but it looks like my memory is wrong.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clawdio View Post
Sheesh, all these posts and no one has mentioned the absolute staple of Spencers (in my mind anyway, aside from MAYBE sexy greeting cards), that weird thing with all the pins that you would put your hand on and it would show the print of your hand. Gross, i just realized that as a kid i probably put that thing on my face... blech...
That's funny because the pin art thing was the first thing to come to mind when bordelond mentioned The Sharper Image.
#50
Old 10-30-2014, 04:05 PM
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Join Date: May 2012
Location: NE Florida
Posts: 19,533
I bought my second favorite possession at Spencer's: A candle holder in the shape of a ram's skull (with horns). The eye sockets have clear marbles in them, so when you light a candle (votive size), put it in the little glass vase (so you don't get wax all over) and slip it in the back of the "skull," the eyes glow! The longer it sits on the shelf, the dirtier it gets and the better it looks.
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