Where can you find ranch-flavored mints, a yodeling pickle and a build-your-own brain model? Seattle's most unusual and fun store, Archie McPhee, of course. With stockings to stuff, a visit to this Wallingford store will yield the perfect one-of-a-kind gifts for the holiday season.
On a recent Sunday afternoon visit with my 5-year-old son, Nathan, Archie McPhee proved to be a hot spot for families with children. We overheard "Awesome!" and "Yeah!" while kids browsed the odd toys and curious knick-knacks, games and practical jokes. This curio shop is packed to the rafters with over 10,000 items, from the outlandish to the downright funny.
With all this stuff, there is something for children of all ages. Nathan was drawn to the pirate paraphernalia, the nose and mustache disguise and the giant beetles. According to staff, parents frequently pick up the Li'l Devil's Trick of the Day joke kit, complete with whoopee cushion, invisible ink and snapping gum, as well as candy and gum in every flavor from bacon to eggnog to cupcake.
If stocking stuffers are your agenda, check out the rotating bins that line the store. You will find finger puppets, bouncy balls, plastic figures, tiaras, erasers, spinning tops, sheriff badges and all sorts of fun stuff. Archie McPhee also carries a large selection of Pez dispensers, snow globes and a line of adhesive bandages with amusing graphics and a toy.
Sure, there is a fair amount of kitsch, and you may have to explain to little ones some of the bizarre and grotesque – for instance spark-shooting "Nunzillas" or Edgar Allan Poe Action Figures. Nathan laughed at the two-headed baby figure, with an evil and sweet side, which he comically dubbed "vampire baby." Like him, children will likely be drawn to something in those endless aisles that will make the hard-to-explain objects a moot point.
Aside from its many trinkets, Archie McPhee has other amusements that will entice kids. A stoic, eight-foot gladiator hails your entrance into the store. Photo booths capture your "mug" in picture or sticker form. Cap'n Archie, a sea captain behind glass, will tell your fortune for just 50 cents. He bestowed a humorous little snippet to us about the "booty" in the store – treasure that is, not the body part (and curse disco for ruining a perfectly good word). Nathan looked at me quizzically, but I thought it was funny.
Archie McPhee was named after a North Dakotan, a known adventurer, practical joker and musician who brought jazz to Asia in 1924. His band played in metropolitan areas in China, Japan and the Philippines. Almost 60 years later, with McPhee as his inspiration, great-nephew-in-law Mark Pahlow set up shop in Fremont. And the rest is history. While other Seattle stores carry curio, Archie McPhee is the only of its kind, due largely in part to the sheer amount of dedicated inventory it has, but also because many of the store's novelty items are packaged and sold worldwide.
The Wallingford store, newly relocated from Ballard, beckons visitors with its bright red-and-yellow awning. For all of its distinctive merchandise, Archie McPhee is well worth a visit, particularly for those who seek amusing gifts you can't find at conventional stores.
IF YOU GO
Where: 1300 N. 45th St., Seattle.
When: Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Contact: 206-297-0240; www.archiemcpheeseattle.com.