I’m wondering, when did M&M’s become important enough to justify their own three-story department store?
My wife and I took our daughter to the American Girl store in New York City for her 10th birthday recently. Why? Because apparently we were hit on the head and woke up thinking money is growing up the side of our house, like the vines on the wall in Wrigley Field.
No, wait, that’s not it. It’s because we love our daughter, and our daughter loves American Girl. And what’s not to love, given the way dolls teach girls important historical lessons — for instance, that no matter how bad times may be, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have a cute little sweater set. (By the way, my daughter actually got into American Girl through the book series; I wholeheartedly endorse this because there’s no need to bring books into a tiny salon to get their hair done.)
But American Girl was only one part of our consumerism tour of the Big Apple. We also went to Time Square, which used to be home to many practitioners of the world’s oldest profession, but where now you can find SpongeBob, Elmo and a guy dressed like a duck. So where did all those former residents go? If they’re now in the Elmo and duck suits, that would explain why SpongeBob was carrying a tip bag.
What really struck me, though, is how so many stores have become tourist destinations in and of themselves, like American Girl with its salon and café and little doll hospital, and Toys R Us with its giant Ferris wheel and life-size Barbie dream house. Although there were no actual life-size Barbies in the dream house, presumably because at that size her bosoms would interfere with shoppers’ ability to see the giant moving dinosaur.
But the most surprising retail Mecca was the M&M’s World store. I’m wondering, when did M&M’s become important enough to justify their own three-story department store? I like M&M’s as much as the next guy — in fact, I would probably strap them to my face in a feedbag if it were socially acceptable. (OK, maybe that makes me like them more than the next guy.) But I still don’t need to own a $25 T-shirt with smiling little candy people, any more than I’d need a framed photo of a dancing eggplant Parmesan.
You’d think people would agree with me, and that the M&M’s store would be fairly vacant, but it was actually the most crowded place we visited. There were a lot more people there than, for example, at the National Archives when I went there recently, even though the only inalienable right M&M’s have ever promised us is the one to have our chocolate encased in a tasty candy coating. OK, sometimes with nuts.
Still, somewhere along the line it apparently became unnecessary to have something to tie your product into, like a sports franchise or a talking mouse, before it got its own store. You can only imagine where this will lead: the Post-It Palace, WD40 World and The Q-Tip Hut come to mind, and if you can’t imagine ever wanting to own novelty merchandise with any of those things pictured on them, your current underwear is probably woefully bereft of candy people.
Clearly I’m part of the problem, although I’ve been able to justify the American Girl experience, at least, on several fronts: For one, we brought our parents and it gave them a chance to spoil the kids, which is their right as grandparents. And also, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, mainly because by the time we’ve replenished our American Girl budget they’ll be beaming the dolls into our daughters’ heads digitally.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t go back to New York. It’s just the next time we’ll probably go to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and other landmarks whose primary purpose isn’t to sell you something. I’ll just buy the M&M’s before we go — I think they’re $3.99 a bag at CVS, T-shirt not included.
Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca. To receive At Large by e-mail, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”