Thursday, September 2, 2021

The Farewell Tour

*Sigh...*  This is a post I didn't want to write, but one that I was afraid was coming. 

Eliot's and my local Disney Store (the one down in Burlington, MA) was one of the latest casualties in the next round of Disney Store closings across the country.  And to make matters worse, the outlet store in Merrimack near my brother is also closing.  I had a feeling that all of the Disney Stores would eventually be closing... it was only a matter of time really.  But that didn't make it hurt any less.

The Disney Store has been my happy place the past year and a half or so.  During the pandemic, Eliot and I haven't been traveling that far, so the Disney Store has definitely been a place for me to get my fill of Disney magic.  It was always a good place to "tide me over" until our next trip to the theme parks.  And I'm really going to miss it.

As soon as I heard the news, I couldn't let it close without going one last time.  The only question was when to go.  Last weekend, Eliot and I already had plans... and this upcoming weekend, we're going to my parents' house for Labor Day weekend.  I didn't want to wait until the last possible weekend, in case they closed the store early.  After discussing it with Eliot, we decided to go on a week day and that he would shift his work hours around to accommodate the trip.  Our farewell tour was born.

Yesterday, Eliot and I got up early and made the trip down to Burlington.  We met my brother Jeremy there like we've done so many times.  (I told Jeremy about our trip on Tuesday, and he was able to take the day off since he wanted to go to IKEA with us to get a desk.)  It was poetic that the three of us made the final trip together.  It might not seem like much, but all of those trips meeting Jeremy there meant so much to me.  It's always nice to spend time with him.  And he's made so many trips there to pick things up for me over the years.  I'm really glad he was able to take the day off to join us.

Going into the Disney Store for the last time was bittersweet.  First, I was thrilled at the amount of merchandise they still had.  I was afraid that it would look like a liquidation sale with empty shelves and sadness everywhere.  (According to one of the cast members, they were still receiving shipments of merchandise to sell.)  The only real indication of the store closing were the giant sticker on the front window and the sign outside.  Cast members told everyone coming in that everything was 25% off and final sale.  And it wasn't until Eliot and Jeremy mentioned it that I saw the upper displays had been taken down.  Other than that, it pretty much looked like it usually did.

We took our time wandering through the store.  At first, there wasn't too much that caught my eye.  I think I was just overwhelmed at the store closing.  As we continued on though, Eliot and I found a few things that we wanted.  We bought t-shirts and an ear hat from the 2021 Rainbow Collection.  I was genuinely shocked to see items from the Jerrod Maruyama collection.  Eliot and I bought a few molds from the collection.  I also got a few Nuimos to display in our kitchen and dining room.  We also got small things like keys and hand sanitizer holders.  Jeremy got a shirt and a water bottle.

Eliot and I also got mementos from some of the other Disney Stores we've been to as our store had Mickey plush from New York City, San Francisco and Las Vegas.  They also had a ton of other merchandise from the New York City flagship store.  I did see one water bottle from Chicago but there wasn't anything else from that store.  (As of right now, the NYC store wasn't on the chopping block, but our store having all of this merchandise on sale doesn't make me feel good about it's future...)

Jeremy checked out and then Eliot and I went to the counter.  The cast members there were so friendly and kind.  My heart was breaking for them, but they were all still cheerful and happy.  While standing at the register, I found two small containers of jewelry sitting on it.  I looked through both and found one pair of Mickey earrings with November birthstones.  (The others were all for October.)  I took that as a sign that while it was a sad moment, all would be ok.  And yes, I bought the earrings!  I have always told myself that I should get a pair of Mickey earrings with my birthstone and the universe made it happen for me.  They'll always be special to me.

After checking out, the guys wanted to go over to the Lego store.  I asked Jeremy to take a few photos of me and Eliot, then they went on their way.  I told them that I'd be over in a few minutes.  I stayed back to soak in a few more moments of the magic.  I took a few pictures of the store and of the decorative trees that have greeted me time after time.  Then, I looked at a few more of the merchandise items.  When I was taking in my final look of our Disney Store, "Try Everything" from Zootopia was playing on the speakers.  Then, I walked over to the rainbow display, found a Mickey plush and gave Mickey's hand a little squeeze with a sad smile under my mask, and I left.

I ended up stopping myself part of way to the Lego store.  I realized that I never took photos outside, so I went back to snap a few.  Then, I met up with Eliot and Jeremy at the Lego store.  Eliot had a few things he was buying, so I checked out for him while he asked the Lego employees about a piece he was missing from another set.  While he waited for them to bring the spare parts out, I admired the Harry Potter and Disney Legos.  (As usual, I snapped a few pictures for Christmas wish list ideas!)

On our way out of the mall, the universe wanted us to go by the Disney Store one last time because the escalator going down was broken.  In order to get downstairs, we had to walk by it one more time on the way to the elevators.  Eliot stopped outside to take a few photos too.  I got a few from different angles.  Then, Eliot and I went over and talked to the cast member outside for a few minutes.  She was saying how they would get a few more trucks of stuff and that they didn't know what would happen to everything that didn't sell.  Some stores had to close early because they sold out of stuff, but it sounded like that store will be open until the September 15th closing date.

It's funny how you can go somewhere so many times and not really see it.  While we were taking photos, Eliot realized how the trees had characters hidden in them.  (I've known that all along and always admired them.)  The cast member told us there were a few different ones hidden in each of the stores three trees, and how the tree on the glass out front had most of the same characters, but that there were a few others too.

On the upper wall pattern above the merchandise inside, there were landmarks around Burlington.  I'm not really familiar with Burlington, so none of them ever jumped out at me... but as I was soaking in my last looks, I remembered being entranced by all of the details of the San Francisco store and other Disney Store locations that had easily recognizable landmarks.  We also talked about that with the cast member.  

As we talked with her, it was blatantly clear how much the cast members loved their jobs, loved the store and loved the magic of Disney.  We've experienced it with so many of the cast members at the Burlington store.  I couldn't help but feel that Disney is making a terrible mistake closing all of these stores.

Before leaving, Eliot and I both thanked her for all of the magic.  And then we walked away... and that was it.  Surprisingly, I didn't cry, but a small part of me felt broken.

Thankfully, we still had other plans to keep my mind busy.  Jeremy put his stuff in his car and then we all piled into the truck on our way to IKEA.  I was super thirsty, so after a quick stop for milkshakes at McDonald's, we were on our way!

We didn't dillydally at IKEA.  Eliot and I knew what we needed downstairs, but we did go over to the desk section to checkout desks for Jeremy.  On the way, Eliot got distracted by the television displays.  IKEA had a display that looked like Funko pop vinyls but that wasn't them.  We all kind of cracked up and then kept walking.

Jeremy spent a few minutes checking out all of the desks.  Eliot and I helped him weigh all of the options, and we finally found one that made sense, was cost efficient and would help make the most of his space in his condo.  We took photos of the bin number and continued on.  We found a few good storage ideas along the way too!

One thing that stopped us in our tracks was a display in the kids section.  We were getting ready to go downstairs, when Eliot and Jeremy discovered a display of Lego stuff.  IKEA had partnered with Lego to create a few sets.  Both Eliot and Jeremy loved the idea of the Lego storage boxes, so Eliot bought one for them both to try out.  

Then, we went downstairs to the marketplace to collect our stuff.  We found most of the items I wanted... and a few other things.  The marketplace is so easy to get distracted in.  There's so much cheap practical stuff that we find there.  We were pretty efficient with our time though.  Thankfully, I had a list and we were in and out in record time!  

We almost had a problem when we didn't find the shelving units that were the main reason Eliot and I went to IKEA, but they had another whole display closer to the walkway.  We got all of the units we needed and while loading them into our cart, Jeremy was eyeing them.  After a few minutes of mentally going over what he had at home, he decided to get two of them to test out if his figures would fit on them.

We made a quick stop in the warehouse to pick up Jeremy's desk and coat rack before making our way to the registers.  Before leaving, Eliot went over to the practically empty customer service desk to ask them about a few spare parts that I needed for my desk.  He came back with 8 of them... which was 4 more than I needed and I was thrilled!  (I've wanted to change my desk for a while now, but I haven't been able to find the parts I needed to convert it.  I always forget to ask whenever we go to IKEA, but Eliot's spare part at the Lego store made me think of it!)

We spent a few minutes in the parking garage loading up the truck.  We knew we'd be getting rain from hurricane Ida so we had trash bags and packing tape ready.  The three of us wrapped everything up in plastic trash bags to protect it in the back of the truck.  Other than a quick pit stop at the Target around the corner to tape one missed corner, everything was wrapped well.

We made our way back to the Burlington Mall.  Unfortunately, it was rush hour so there was a lot of traffic.  After a quick break at the rest stop to use the bathroom and grab snacks, we finally arrived back at the mall.  Then, we drove up to New Hampshire and to Jeremy's condo.  He had something he was trying to get to around 7, so we made quick work of unloading the truck and piling everything into his condo.

Before saying goodbye, Jeremy gave me the Dug plush that he'd bought me a few days prior.  Just like in the movie, he talks.  This one does whenever you pet him, but Jeremy thinks he's shake activated.  Apparently, he was talking the entire ride home from the store so Jeremy had to put him in the trunk of his car to get some peace and quiet.  He said that when he was putting him in the truck, Dug said "oh no!"  

We got a good laugh about it.  That was followed by an even bigger laugh when Eliot and I were playing with him and he started to make panting noises when I scratched his head.  It was perfect timing and too funny.  I had forgotten to tell Eliot about him, but he was also quite taken with how cute he was.  We put Dug in the back seat and only heard him here and there on the ride home.  I thanked Jeremy for getting him for me, and we gave him hugs goodbye.

After saying goodbye to Jeremy at his condo, Eliot and I rode over to the Disney Store Outlet in Merrimack.  We had a little over an hour before they closed.  We wandered through that store seeing a lot of similar things to the Disney Store.  We didn't see too much that sparked our interest, but I did leave with two NYC shirts, a Minnie Statue of Liberty ornament, a NYC mug and a plush Mickey cupcake keychain.  Eliot looked a few shirts, but they didn't have anything in his size as it was all picked over.  However, he did find a lanyard that he liked for work while in line for the register.

I took a few photos of the outlet store before leaving, but the outlet store has never held the same magic that the actual Disney Stores hold.  Eliot and I both soaked in one last look and then we were off... back into the night and the rain.

The ride home was dark and rainy, but it was easy to stay awake and alert because I had to.  We finally stopped for food at the Kennebunk rest stop.  Then, we rode the rest of the way to the park and ride at our exit.  Eliot jumped back into his car so he could go to work for a few hours... even though it was already almost 10 pm.  

I drove home and arrived home right around 10.  We'd left that morning at 10 am, so after being gone for 12 hours, I was completely wiped out.  But our farewell tour was definitely worth it.  Plus, we also got stuff that we needed from IKEA for the house.  It was a sad, but productive trip and I'm really glad that we went.

Farewell to both of our closest Disney Stores.  Thank you to the cast members for always brightening our day and making the magic.  And thank you to the stores themselves for all of the magical memories through the years.  We will miss you!  °o° 

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