Thursday, September 9, 2021

#tbt Disney Store Memories

Less than a week from now, most of the remaining Disney Stores will close their doors for the final time.  Last week, Eliot and I said goodbye to our closest Disney Store during our "Farewell Tour".  For the second part of our tour, Eliot and I also swung by the Disney Outlet that will also be closing permanently on September 15th.

Going to the Disney Store has always been a magical experience for me.  When I was a kid, I remember going to the store in Portland at the Maine Mall.  Jeremy and I used to get so excited to see all of the figures in the window and up above the shelves.  Our family trips to Portland were special and the Disney Store was my favorite part.  Even to this day, I can close my eyes and still feel the magic of looking in the windows and walking across the checkerboard tiles to enter the store.  We absolutely loved it.  Plus, Mom and Dad usually let each of us kids pick out a few beanie plushes to buy.  I was so sad when they closed the store in Portland... and I've missed it ever since.

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I remember being ecstatic when Eliot and I lived in Woburn, MA and we were so close to the Burlington Disney Store.  (Not the current store... there used to be one that was downstairs under where the Lego Store is now.)  I remember walking to the giant plush display in the back with rows of plushies stacked below the giant movie screen.  I loved watching the movies on the screen and singing along with all of our favorite Disney songs.  Eliot and I used to go to that store pretty often.

I've been to so many Disney Stores through the years.  I used to go over to the one in Nashua, New Hampshire pretty regularly when I worked down the road.  It was right near to the New York and Company so I'd always head straight towards both of them whenever I went to the mall during my lunch break.  Elissa and I went to the Disney Outlet store in Nashville when she was down there for her summer internship in 2019.

I have also been to some of the special "flagship" stores through the years.  My first was the 5th Avenue World of Disney store in New York City.  My yearbook staff and I made it a staple of our trips to New York for our media conferences.  (There were also Build-A-Bear and American Girl Stores nearby!)  I used to love wandering around all of the different floors.  I think that's where I fell in love with Disney art.  The display there was amazing.  Eliot and I also went there one or two times before they closed it.

We have also been to the Times Square Disney Store at least once since they moved over there.  Eliot and I went when we traveled to NYC back in October of 2018.  We enjoyed wandering around the store and looking at all of the exclusive New York City merchandise that was on display right as you entered the store.  While there, I wore the I°o°NY ears that Eliot and I made especially for the trip.  The cast members there loved them and thought they were awesome.  I made sure to get a few pictures!

Back in 2015, Eliot and I went to the Chicago Disney Store with his family while we were out there for a friend's wedding.  I absolutely loved the store's architecture and magical details.  There were hidden Mickeys in the scroll details of the store's front facade.  They had Mickey and Minnie mosaics on the ground at the entrance.  There were quotes and images set into the concrete outside.  I completely fell in love with it. 

Finally, Eliot and I went to the San Francisco store a few years ago when we were out in California with his family for another friend's wedding.  We were only there for a short time, but I remember seeing all of the details of San Francisco in the wall art and recognizing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.  Funnily enough, the thing I remember the most from this store is running up and down a bunch of spiral stairs between floors.

While I've enjoyed visiting all of these flagship stores, the store that's meant the most to me recently is the Burlington, MA store.  I'm going to miss the camaraderie that Eliot, Jeremy and I experienced so many times at the store during events.  Before COVID, we made quite a bit of trips down over a few months while trying to collect keys. 

Then, there was the trip we took to get the Frozen 2 dolls.  We met so many people in line, and I'm still friends with a few of them on Facebook!  I still keep in touch with our Happily Ever Hatter customer that I recognized in line that day.  I'm not sure if I ever would have gotten to know her if it wasn't for us standing in line that day!

The cast members at the Burlington Disney Store were always so wonderful too.  A lot of them would recognize Eliot and me.  They knew we were the people from Maine who drove 3 hours down and back just to go shopping.  I can't tell you how many times we begged them to put in a good word to open a store in Portland again.  (Read more about the Burlington Disney Store's Grand Opening on Take Time for Today.)

The cast members also made magic for us.  One time that sticks out in my head was when I was pretty bummed out that we'd be missing Mickey's birthday celebration by one or two days.  (It must have been back in 2018 or 2019.)  The stores usually give out buttons for the occasion, much like they do in the theme parks.  I asked the cast members at the register if they were doing it and they replied that they were.  I said that I'd have to see if my brother could come in for me since we couldn't turn around and drive all the way back down there just to get a few buttons.  The next thing I know, one of the cast members reached below the counter and placed something in our shopping bag without saying a word.  It was a pair of the Mickey Mouse birthday buttons... one for each of us.  I thanked them all for their kindness and it still touches me to this day.  The Disney Stores have always been a place filled with magic to me, but without the cast members, they'd just be another store in the mall.

It's really sad that all of this is ending.  I think that Disney is making a horrible mistake closing all of their stores.  I understand that it's expensive to keep the storefronts open, but they're closing another connection we all have to the magic.  Eliot and I will still purchase stuff online, but it will never quite be the same as shopping in store.

It probably seems weird to be so sentimental about a store, but it really does feel like I'm saying farewell to a big part of my childhood.  But there isn't much I can do about it now that Disney has set the ball in motion, so here goes... 

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Farewell, Disney Stores.  Thank you for all of the magical memories.  °o° 

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