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Ruminations: A New JHM Resource

Ruminations: A New JHM Resource

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Way back when, the Disney Store came to my neighborhood -- specifically the Sun Valley Mall location in Concord, California. It was as if Disney had moved one of their theme park locations to just around the corner instead of being 300 plus miles away. The Cast Members were glad to see you and always had a smile and a happy greeting. It wasn't at all uncommon for them to spend some time chatting with you about an upcoming product release or you favorite Disney moments. Don't know about you, but it wasn't uncommon for me to stop by two, maybe three times a week. And while I may not have made a big purchase on every visit, odds were that I wouldn't leave the store empty handed.

Now it has been somewhat well documented about all of the changes and challenges that have come along since those days. The Disney Store is likely to be sold off soon, having become just another chain retail place holder in the mall. While the CM's do their best to put a brave face on things, the glory days are likely gone and never to return. Well intentioned experiments such as the Disney Galleries have come and gone, with the management failing to grasp the consumers and their loyalties.

This last Wednesday evening I was in the City and just happened to be headed down Post Street passing the Disney Store at Union Square. Only the entrance from the corner of Powell and Post remains open, the other having been locked and signed. While the CM's folding t-shirts were quick to offer a "Hello", it was somewhat obvious that they were concentrating on the task at hand. A quick walk around what once was a Disney emporium filled with diverse merchandise revealed a lot of open space and the same products displayed in a number of locations to hide or fill shelf space. Case in point was plush with the denim covered characters in at least three different locations.

And in another brilliant marketing moment, there is a snow globe and small plush characters for "Mickey's Three Musketeers" - a product not even due out on home video until next month. Hello? Synergy gone wild here or what? By the time the direct-to-video release hits the shelves, the other items will likely be long gone through clearance sales.

What videos the store did have for sale on VHS and DVD were few in number, and kept close to the registers. There was a smattering of adult clothing located in the area that the Disney Gallery used to call home. That and snow globes just doesn't make up for the up-scale collectibles one used to find displayed here. Some interesting t-shirts in adult sizes up to XXL, including some "Finding Nemo" designs. Signs of things yet to come perhaps? Hard to say... But overall, it just isn't the same store it used to be, once upon a time.

You might recall that here in Livermore, I found a new store that reminded me a great deal of those days gone by. "Where The Magic Begins" is not only a great name, but a fine description of the philosophy of the owner, Cindy Russell. She's been a collector for a long time and knows her stuff when it comes to Disneyana in the collectibles arena. Since she opened shop last October, that information is something she is always willing to share with anyone who stops by.

Cindy and some guy who happened to be in the neighborhood...
Photo by Nancy Stadler

The store, in it's current form, isn't as big as even the smallest of Disney Store locations. And the merchandise runs from the small end items such as Disney antenna balls up to some great art pieces. While you may not find the latest video release there, Cindy is always glad to direct you just up the street, where you can find it - at Walmart. (Reminds me of the original "Miracle on 34th Street" where Kris Kringle tells Macy's customers where they can find an item that the store didn't carry.)

Now as much of a Disney fan as I am, I didn't even know the store existed until late this spring. And the real shock of it all is that my primary financial institution (ok, my credit union) is right across the street from the store. I can't tell you how many times I went by and didn't notice it. That's not Cindy's fault as the store is well marked as seen in the photo below. And usually there is an inflatable Disney character outside in case you're not paying attention.

As seen from the parking lot. Could be Disney items in here?
Photo by Jeff Ferris

One of the things I've heard on several occasions is that a visit to the store reminds people of how things used to be back in the glory days of the Disney Stores. The items for sale are well displayed and Cindy is always willing to answer any question a visitor might have. And if you're looking for a certain piece, she'll do her best to find it for you from her suppliers.

To me, all of this is just fantastic. A place where I can go and find folks who share an interest. Okay, so at times it's more of a passion. But that's not a bad thing. In fact, it might even be downright healthy. Cindy believes that's true as she's been battling cancer for several years now. The store and her love of Disney kept her focused and positive, during a very tough time for anyone. Even if some folks tend to go overboard in their passions for Disney and everything the name covers, here is a great example of it being put to good use.

The local chapter of the National Fantasy Fan Club has adopted the store as a location for some of their meetings. Their next event is all set for September 11 with special guest Ron Stark to tell about caring for your Animation Art, along with all the usual fun, food, raffles, auctions and Disney fans.

Here's a few photos more (from the camera of Jeff Ferris) to show off some of the store. Plans are underway to expand with a gallery (this will more than double the size of the store!) for display of many of the new pieces coming in every week.

A small, yet interesting offering of Disney pins from all over!

One of three display cases of the Walt Disney Classic Collection located in the front of the store.

What would a Disney collectables store be without plush?

A restrained offering is available from this classic red wagon.

Cels remain a popular collectible with many folks and the store has more of a selection than the current wall space allows room for display!

A little bit of everything from princesses to Tinker Belle and NASCAR.

The web pages for "Where The Magic Begins" are full of information as well. Check out the "News Updates" for all kind of tidbits, including a sneak peek into plans for the first anniversary of the opening coming in October. That promises to be quite an event for Disney fans of all kinds. I know for certain that I'll be there!

So, now for some even better news! I'm proud to announce that Cindy is joining our team of writers to share the latest news and information about Disney collectibles here with the JHM readers. Considering just how vast a topic that is, we are very pleased to be able extend our coverage of this ever changing area of interest to many of you.

Tune in next week for the first of her columns - a look at the changes coming along in what may be the most popular Disney consumer product line - the Walt Disney Classics Collection!

Don't forget out first JHM "Night at the Movies" coming to Oakland on August 27. So far, a small but select group, and always room for more to join in what promises to be an evening of merriment and misadventures...

And as always, thanks to you. Our loyal supporters keep us here doing what we do best. Churning out more infotainment for another week! A buck or two dropped in the JHM Amazon donation box really does amazing things...

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  • One of the toy exhibitions is beautiful and very thoughtful

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