826 Stores

Mortal TerrorI first encountered the 826 stores a couple of years ago in the form of some photos of The Echo Park Time Travel Mart. The link was presented without any sort of background, so I was left scratching my head as to whether it was some kind of temporary art installation, an actual store, or perhaps an elaborate work of private whimsy.

I recently ran across some photos of products from Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, and with a combined sense of déjà vu and WTF decided to investigate further.

The names of the stores come from the address of their first location, the Pirate Supply Store at 826 Valencia in San Francisco. Proceeds are used to fund the 826 National writing program, which tutors kids ages 6-18 in expository and creative writing. The stores are works of creative genius all by themselves, consisting of (in addition to the Time Travel Mart and the Pirate Supply Store), the The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair, the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company, The Boring Store, the Bigfoot Research Institute of Greater Boston, and The Museum of Unnatural History.

Inspired by the 826 program, a group in the UK created (with the founders’ blessing) the Ministry of Stories. They are responsible for the Hoxton Street shop, and perhaps we’ll see additional locations in the future.

If I have one quibble, it’s that the various stores don’t have extensive online catalogues. The relatively new Museum of Unnatural History happens to be near me (and I’m already planning an excursion there), but I may never get to sample Golden Horde brand powdered horse milk or pick up a couple of cans of A Vague Sense of Unease.

Fortunately, there’s also a book about the stores: Essentially Odd features photos of products from the various stores, plus anecdotes and design notes from the artists and designers responsible.

If you’re looking for some fantastic creative inspiration, the 826 product lines are an incredible resource.

(Cross-posted at The Art of Darkness)