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|Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, editor|
|Shopping the Parks: How the West Was Sold - 03/16/01|
|You have to fear free-association
exercises. I knew I wanted to incorporate something Irish into this week's
column, in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Unfortunately, the Disneyland Resort
isn't exactly brimming with Irish influences. So, I sent my mind wandering,
hoping it would come back with something I could use... St. Patrick's Day...
Irish holidays... Ireland... Cashs
of Ireland Catalog (from which my mother used to create her holiday
wish-lists when I was a kid)... Pendleton wool blankets... Ah ha! I've got
it! There used to be a Pendleton Shop in Disneyland. Problem solved, theme
decided, I might even get this one turned in early.
I did a little research, and found out that the Pendleton Woolen Mills is, well... based in Portland, Oregon. And the founder, Thomas Kay, was actually English, not Irish. That can certainly put a crimp in any Irish theme! Undaunted, I decided to go see what had become of the store in the park, anyway.
The Pendleton Woolen Mills Dry Goods Store closed on April 29, 1990, after 35 years of operation. The store was an original tenant of the park, and holds a special place in many guests' hearts. In fact, my husband's grandmother recalls going into Disneyland just to shop at the Pendleton store.
A stop at Pendleton was a must anytime we visited the park with my own grandmother. I remember being a little girl and standing in the store, wishing I could go up the long flight of stairs. I was sure that all sorts of wonderful things must be hiding up there. A Cast Member had convinced me that the fairies lived up there, so I shouldn't disturb them. Of course, now I know it's a storeroom - and I think that Cast Member was just trying to keep me off the stairs!
When the store re-opened two months later in June 1990, it had been subdivided into three shops: Bonanza Outfitters, Silver Spur Supplies, and the American Buffalo Hat Company. Each shop was intended to carry different, but complementary merchandise, all with a Western flair. A kind MousePlanet contributor sent to me a July 1990 article from the Disneyland Line, which discussed the "new" stores and the great plans they had for them. There is a huge difference between what was there then, and what remains after 11 years.
Bonanza Outfitters initially carried a wide selection of Western-theme clothing and accessories for all ages. Over the years, it has become just another outlet for the same character- and park- themed apparel you can find anywhere from Downtown Disney clear back to Mickey's Toontown. On the plus side, the off- the- beaten- track location makes this store the one place to find styles and sizes that are sold out in other locations.
The Western clothing that is still available is located in the next shop, Silver Spur Supplies. This shop was originally the place for home accessory items with a Southwestern edge.
Just six months ago, they store had metal and tin accent items, decorator bears and wood carvings. Now they have a silly collection of cow- print blankets and a few shelves of rodeo- inspired photo frames.
Thankfully, this store still carries a partial line of Minnetonka hand- sewn moccasins and boots. While the Internet has made finding products like this much easier, I know people who planned visits to Disneyland just to reorder these shoes. A cash register between Silver Spur Supplies and Bonanza Outfitters offers a selection of silver rings and bracelets, as well as little Western- themed trinkets and souvenirs.
One hard-to-miss feature of this store is the 2,000- pound wooden buffalo that stands at the base of the stairs. The seven-foot-tall sculpture was carved by R.L. Blair, and was made from a giant sequoia that grew in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Disneyland says that the 2,000- year- old wood used in the carving was purchased from a wood salvage broker: a tree was not felled just for the purpose of making this sculpture. The sculpture, along with the other authentic props and custom-built fixture package, were designed to make the shop memorable to guests.
The third shop in the complex is the American Buffalo Hat Company. When opened, this store offered a variety of western hats, some made from exotic materials, or trimmed with extravagant accessories. A hat maker was available to take orders and make custom hats as well. The store still carries the Roy Rogers line of hats for kids, as well as adult hats in wool and leather. Unfortunately, the selection has dwindled to what you see here, and the hat decorator has gone the way of the buffalo.
Of course, who needs a custom hat when they could have some salsa? Among the more unlikely items in this group of shops is a collection of salsas and hot sauces, women's pajamas, Mickey Mouse slippers, and cowboy- inspired greeting cards. Yes, some of it fits the theme, but the overall assortment looks more random than planned.
I was actually disappointed to see what had become of the stores, now that I knew what they had been like a decade ago. I think this is just another example of generic character merchandise crowding out more unique, themed offerings.
As disappointed as I was by what was inside the stores, I was pleasantly surprised to take a closer look at the leather shop outside. This little stand, nothing more than a counter cut into the exterior wall between shops, almost always has a small line of teenagers gathered outside. On the day I was there, an uncrowded Tuesday morning, it was difficult to get a shot of the shop without a group clustered around the window.
The biggest draws of this shop are the custom leather bracelets and the leather key chains. The braided bracelets, in a variety of sizes and colors, can be personalized with any first name. A collection of silver rivets is available to decorate the bracelets. Leather and pewter key chains, shaped like Disney characters, can also be personalized.
This tiny shop offers a lot of merchandise. You can find luggage tags, belt fobs and belt bags, as well as dog collars and belts. Most of the leather items can be personalized or somehow ornamented. There is a small display of necklaces and chokers, made from metal, wood and stone. Each time I've been here, the Cast Members have been friendly and efficient. This is especially wonderful because the store is usually run with just one CM to handle all of the custom orders and requests.
On the back side of this complex is the Pioneer Mercantile. This store has entrances from both Adventureland and Frontierland. The Adventureland entrance is totally unmarked, and rather resembles the side of a barn.
This store was redecorated to the Pocahontas theme the summer the movie opened. A Pocahontas mural is painted above the mail cash register, and the movie is projected from within a decorative drum onto a "stretched- hide" screen. Elements of the previous theme decor are still evident, like these lighting fixtures on the ceiling.
A large tree inside the shop, originally put in as Grandmother Willow, serves as the home of the seasonal Mini Bean Bag Plush collection.
This store is also a main location for costumes around Halloween, which might explain why they carry the children's Western clothing all year, instead of the shop next door. This store has the same strange mix of properly themed merchandise and generic Disneyland souvenirs. Polished rocks and Toy Story (Woody and Jessie) merchandise compete for shelf space with 45th Anniversary collectors' plates and Sorcerer Mickey T-shirts. I suppose you could say they have something for everyone.... just like the other 20-odd shops in the park.
I didn't uncover any Leprechauns on my journey, but I did manage to find a four-leaf clover amid the tumbleweeds. Skip the generic and mismatched merchandise in the four-store complex, and check out the little leather shop. It's always amazing what treasures can be hidden in such little stores.
Upcoming Merchandise Events
The third "Artist's Choice" pin will be released April 14th at Disney's California Adventure. The pin, entitled "A Night on the Town," was designed by Disney Design Group artist Ron Burrage. Mr. Burrage will be signing the pin at DCA for interested customers. There are 11 pins in this series, to be released on the second Saturday of each month through December.
Based on the turnout from the past two months, I'll stand by my advice: If you want to get your pins signed, you must get there bright and early to stand in line. The signing starts at 9 AM, and ends promptly at noon. Depending on how "talkative" the artist is, they may not get through the whole line in three hours.
If you don't care about getting your pin signed, wait until the rush is over. We got there at 10 AM both months, and were able to walk right into the store and get our pins without standing in line. Unless you just have to get your pins signed, sleep in!
Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix is the super-shopper behind MouseShoppe, your personal and unofficial shopping service for the Disneyland Resort, and the owner of CharmingShoppe, a Disney collectibles store located in Anaheim.
In addition to scouring the park to find you the latest and greatest merchandise, she keeps you updated on all of the merchandise events happening in the parks.
If you want to talk to her about this column, merchandise, or events, contact her here.
Visit our other shopping service, MouseMemories.com.
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