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|Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, editor|
|Shopping the Parks: Fly 'n' Buy at DCA - 4/6/01|
I know, I was supposed to take you back to Disneyland today. And, I meant to - really, I did. Then in last week's column on Engine-Ears Toys, I mentioned that there was an airplane-themed store in Condor Flats. Enough of you wrote to ask about it, so I figured I might as well go there for this issue to satisfy your curiosity.
I can unequivocally say that Fly 'n' Buy is the most detailed store in the park. Even more, all this detail is crammed into a tiny store smaller than some living rooms I've seen. While Engine-Ears Toys gets the award for "cutest" store, Rushin' River Outfitters the best fixture package and Off the Page is still my overall favorite, none of them can compare to the level of detail found here.
To properly enjoy this store, it helps to know a little about this area's theme. Condor Flats, as the Disney- created legend goes, was once a flight test field somewhere in the California desert. The buildings you see are remnants of that facility. Decades later, the field was converted into a base for sightseeing tours. The abandoned buildings were converted to a restaurant, souvenir shop, and, of course, the Soarin' Over California attraction. Look carefully at the new marquees on the buildings, and you see that they have been installed right over faded lettering from previous signs.
Fly 'n' Buy is housed in the old "motor pool" building. While these pilots were building and testing experimental aircraft, they were also building and testing experimental ground vehicles. This shop is decorated with the "spare parts" of both pursuits. It seems the new store operators just moved their merchandise in, leaving the 1940s decor intact. The walls are cluttered with shelf after shelf of props such as old parachutes, stacks of oil cans, pieces of aircraft, award trophies, spare hubcaps, and other debris. Model planes hang from the rafters, and dozens of signs, banners, photos and pennants cover every flat surface.
What they didn't remove from the motor pool, they turned into a fixture. This tail assembly holds stacks of souvenirs. Oil drums hold T-shirts, loose-parts bins display candy, and red tool boxes house a selection of toys. The main kiosks in the store are converted tire racks -- some with the tires still on display.
The old office "cage" has been converted into a cash register counter. An old gasoline pump has been used as a display case to house boxed jewelry and watches. The sides of the cage are covered with more spare parts, metal signs, and license plates. The back walls hold a collection of tools, hoses, rubber belts, and even more spare parts.
Unfortunately, it's usually so crowded around the register that you never get a chance to really notice what hangs inside the cage. Look really carefully at the clock and calendar inside the office. The calendar is from October 1947, and the date circled is 14. At 10:27 AM on Tuesday, October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier for the very first time. The clock above the calendar was shattered by the sonic boom that resulted. Both the clock and the calendar remain here as a tribute to that effort.
Of course, this is all a Disney story. The clock was probably shattered by an Imagineer's hammer, and the calendar was obviously created just for this store. But isn't it amazing how much effort went into creating the historical backdrop for this store? It's too bad so few people will ever even notice it.
You can't fail to notice the race car elevated in the middle of the store. This is a "drop tank car," made from the fuel tank of a WWII P-38. While the banner for the Condor Flats race that hangs above the car is just another prop, the Cast Members in the store tell me the car itself is real.
On top of being decorated and themed to the rafters, Fly 'n' Buy actually has some interesting merchandise for sale. Small toy cars and planes are available, as are racing sets and Revell brand model car kits. The store sold out of model airplanes almost immediately, but you can find them at Engine-Ears Toys until this store gets another shipment. There is a collection of Fisher Price preschool toys, which seems a little out of place here. Even the requisite candy offering is themed. Containers of candy are shaped like tools, and are displayed in a tool box fixture.
There is a great collection of aviation-inspired clothing at this store. Quite popular are the leather bomber jackets for adults, and matching vinyl ones for the kids. The patches you see on the jackets are also used on hats and backpacks. You can even buy the fabric patches to decorate your own items with.
Paper airplane fans should be happy to know that there is an entire collection of books and kits available here. There are also two airplane posters sold in the store. One shows a collection of WWII-era planes, while the other focuses more on modern military aircraft.
A lot of people collect tin or metal signs for decorating with. DCA offers nearly a dozen such signs, including these two styles. To further complete your decor theme, photos frames, bar ware, lithos and mugs are also available for purchase.
As I was photographing the store, I heard a woman chastise her small daughter to put down the model plane she was holding, telling her that this was "all boy stuff." Apparently this mother had never heard of the Women Fly project, which "seeks to generate awareness for women's achievements in the field of aviation and beyond." To help spread their message, the project has created over 25 T-shirt designs featuring famous women aviators and inspiring quotes. Several of these shirts are available at Fly 'n' Buy. Too bad the store doesn't have them in children's sizes - I think that little girl would have liked one.
So, are all of you aviation nuts booking the next flight out to DCA to visit Fly 'n' Buy? Seriously, if you do happen to visit DCA, make it a point to really look at this store. Grab a FastPass for Soarin', and use the time you would've otherwise spent in the stand-by line soaking up the details in this store.
Next Week - Disneyland! (No, I mean it this time! Honest!)
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.
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