Feb 1, 2022

Back To Grumpo's

Grumpo's Warehouse
Race Street - Wilkes-Barre, PA
This place is a treasure trove of hard-to-find snacks, holiday decorations and random new old stock.  It's been six years since we were last here, and we finally made it back again on Saturday.  I'm happy to say that not much has changed.  They even still had some of the spiral notebooks that look like they fell through a time warp from a mid-90's high school computer lab.

The merchandise here is very random, but it's not a flea market.  Everything here is unopened merchandise like you would find in a regular store... or, more accurately, like you would have found in a regular store if you hopped into a time machine.  The prices are more than reasonable, with the majority of items costing a dollar or less.  In fact, a lot of the stuff that I was looking at was either 2, 3 or 4 for a dollar.

I took an unreasonable amount of photos, so if looking at products that have sat on store shelves for several decades is the kind of thing that gets you excited, feast your eyes on these.

When you first walk in, there is a long counter surrounding the cashier that has candy, snack food, and other assorted merchandise.

They had a whole bunch of Hershey White With Whole Almonds bars, which is probably my favorite candy bar that has ever come out in my adult life.  They remind me a lot of the old Nestle Alpine White bars that I loved when I was a kid.

I can't vouch for the mini reindeer heads, but 90 of them for a buck seems like a good deal.  Same goes for the Snickers Espresso bar.  A review on The Impulsive Buy is a bit of a "good news, bad news" situation.  The good news is that the reviewer gave them a 9 out of 10 and says that they have "a great espresso flavor that works well with the basic Snickers formula".  The bad news is that this review was written in the summer of 2018, so that might give you an idea of how old these bars are.  This isn't the kind of thing that would put me off of trying it, but I've been doing well on my diet so far in 2022, and I wasn't about to blow it on a Snickers bar that's potentially two years older than the pandemic.

If I had to guess, I'd say that these incense cones and air fresheners are from the mid 1980's.  The Russian Musk one caught my eye.  I can't say that I've ever heard of that scent before, so I Googled it and found a perfume of the same name that was described as "classical chypre, full of fresh, foresty notes, driven by furry animalic character, with a touch of florals and an unmistakable piney, Russian feel".  I don't know what the hell that means, but I guess they think it smells like a furry animal from a Russian forest rolled around in a flower patch.  You've got to lead a pretty interesting life to have a memory of that scent to be able to make a comparison like that.

That Sea Breeze lotion has got to be about 40 years old, and I'm betting that the Lubriderm facial cleaner isn't much newer.

I'm the furthest thing from an expert in hair care products, but those bottles of gel look about as 90's as you can get.  The Lady Clairol Whipped Cream Hair Lightener looks to be older than that.  They're selling them here for a dollar each.  There's a seller on eBay that has two bottles for sale for $60 as I write this, so I don't know if that's a delusional seller or if this basket really does contain something that people would be willing to pay hundreds of dollars for, so if you know more about this stuff than I do and want to take the plunge, go for it.  While you're there, you can stock up on 30 year old Jordache deodorant and Cologne Bouquet pink soap.  What you're seeing in this basket is just a drop in the bucket.  They must have had at least fifty of each.

Don't mess with Colette's shelves.

When I was in junior high school, one of the most frequent commercials on television was for a device called The Club.  It was basically a giant bar that locked your steering wheel in place to keep thieves from stealing your car.  I don't think I've ever knew anybody who owned one, but everyone in the early 90's had heard of them.  What I didn't know until this weekend is that there was a knock-off version called the Wolo Turn Stop.  If that's not enough security for you, they also made something called the ShiftLoc which looks like it fits between the gear shift and emergency break to stop you from taking the car out of park.

Another popular commercial for a car product from the 90's was for the Shiwala.  This was a big blue mop that you used to wash your car.  The commercials were a riot.  First, they'd show the dumbest guy in the world washing his car the "old-fashioned way" as he strains his back and sprays himself in the face with the hose.  If only there was a better way!  Introducing Shiwala!  Now, that same guy happier than a pig in shit as he rubs this big blue washcloth on a stick all over his car.  Then for good measure, he tries to tear it apart to show you just how strong and durable it is.  Unfortunately, Grumpo's didn't have any of the Shiwala mops, but they did have quite a few jars of their car wash powder.  God only knows what's in that jar, but if I had to guess, I'd say that it's about fifteen cents worth of laundry soap that they sold for twenty bucks each back in the day.  My grandmother was a sucker for all of this "as seen on tv" crap when I was a kid, but we thankfully avoided becoming a Shiwala family.

I've seen some bootleg Eagles gear in my life, but this is on another level.

This baseball was made in Jamaica for a company called Louis Greenberg & Son, Inc.  This is a company that originally incorporated in 1929 and hasn't been in business for many years.  I didn't research them too thoroughly, but they seemed to sell things that you'd see for sale at a drugstore or a five and dime.  I found photos online of kites, squirt guns, plastic toy cars, baby pacifiers with zoo animals on them, and collectible trading cards of cowboys and movie stars from the 60's, and many of them have the same LGS logo that you can see on this baseball.  I didn't buy it, but I kinda wish that I had.  If it's still there next time we go back, I think I will.

However, I have no regrets about not buying this Wild West "actlon figure".  Far be it from me to question the claims on the package that this toy looks realistic.  After all, I can't say that I've met too many Native Americans in my lifetime.  I can say that the men and women that I've met didn't walk around topless while brandishing a bow and arrow, nor did their jeans have a matching green tomahawk resting on their groin.

If one offensive stereotype isn't enough, you can buy a whole bag of 'em, and in neon colors no less.  I was kind of shocked to see that these weren't even that old.  The copyright on the package of Wild Willy's Cowboys & Indians is from 2016.  These kinds of toys were practically everywhere when my dad was a kid, and they were still for sale at places like McCrory's when I was a kid in the 80's and early 90's, but I thought we had enough sense as a country to move past toys like this.  Call me overly sensitive if you want to, but I can't see the benefit from giving kids so that they can pretend to commit genocide.

On the other hand, these are a toy from the past that I can totally get behind.  My grandfather bought me something like this when I was a little boy.  The ones I had were about half the size of these cars.  They looked like little Volkswagen Beetle race cars, and they came with a race track that you would hang on the wall.  The cars are basically just a lightweight plastic shell with a slightly tacky substance underneath.  The idea is that you'd stick two of them high up on wall so that they could race each other.  As the stickiness peeled away, it would fall a little bit and then catch on the wall again, and again, and again until it finally hit the floor.  I guess it sounds silly, but I had a lot of fun with them.  I was about six or seven years old and racing those little cars down the wall in my grandparents kitchen between the back door and the washing machine.  Man, I haven't thought about those in years.  Simpler times, man...

This toy is another blast from the past.  Every kid I knew had something like it, and I did as well.  I'm pretty sure I won mine from playing Skee Ball in the arcades on the Wildwood boardwalk when I was six years old.  I don't remember this, but my grandfather took a photo of me playing with it at the Beach Rest Motel where we used to stay.

The one I had was a little different because it had balls instead of darts, but the idea is the same.  It's a felt target with little Velcro things that you'd throw at it.  The one they have at Grumpo's looks to be promoting the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

In addition to the notebooks that I mentioned earlier, they had a lot of school supplies that look like they were first on store shelves in the late 80's to the mid 90's.  These include a stretchable denim book cover for a three ring binder that has a built-in pouch to hold a CD.

It's been a long time since I saw those glue pens.  My grandmother used to keep one of these in a drawer of office supplies that she had under the microwave.  Can't say that I ever remember her buying Mighty Morphin Power Rangers tape though.  Power Rangers is one of those things that came out just a little bit too late for me to get into it when I was a kid.  On the other hand, Peanuts comics are something that I've loved throughout my life, so I did pick up one of the Snoopy cork boards.

I can't imagine why anyone would want to go out of their way to listen to the sounds of a fax machine, but in case that's your jam, Grumpo's has a refrigerator magnet just for you.  If that doesn't appeal to you, they've got a whole bunch of patriotic CRTs with a cable box on top with a button that plays the Star Spangled Banner.  You can almost picture someone holding their hand over their heart while staring at the refrigerator every morning.

There are a couple of videotape storage options available at Grumpo's.  I wasn't crazy about the one on the left, but the Revolving Video Rack on the right came home with me.  It can store 20 VHS tapes vertically or two dozen Beta tapes horizontally.  I haven't had a working Betamax player in a few decades, but I'm pretty sure I still have a few tapes.  I might try to use one side of this for Beta and the other three for VHS tapes.

Man, this brings back memories.  I'm pretty sure I had that exact same Nokia cell phone that this leather case was made to hold.  This was back in the late 90's... years before smart phones existed.  Back then, there weren't any cell phone plans that offered unlimited minutes, but my contract with Cellular One had 100 minutes per month included, with free incoming calls and free calls on weekends.  Also, they didn't charge you for any calls that dropped due to lost signal.  Since the cell phone reception was terrible in NEPA at the time, you could pretty much guarantee that if you stayed on the call long enough, the signal would drop and it wouldn't count against your minutes.  I was living in an apartment in Beaver Meadows at the time.  It was my first apartment out on my own and paying my own bills, so I had to make every penny count.  It wasn't long before I discovered that I lost my cell phone signal when I was in the bathroom, so instead of hanging up at the end of a call, I would just walk over to the bathroom when the conversation was nearing it's end and presto, the phone lost signal, and the call wouldn't count toward my minutes.

There was a time in the 90's when it seemed like everybody I knew, from kids in school to my grandparents and their friends, had one of those pocket-sized battery operated fans.  However, I can't say that I ever remember seeing one that doubled as a mini mixer.  It may be tough to tell from these photos, but this is these two things are the same exact product in the same box.  The package says "Portable Mini Fan" on one side, and "Mini Mixer" on the other.  I guess this was marketed to folks who frequently find themselves at an outdoor cafe in the hot sun where they serve drinks that aren't mixed properly.

If you didn't spring for the electronic fan/mixer combo, you could always opt for the old fashioned swizzle sticks.  Let's party!

Do people still hang these things in their kitchen window?

They've got a ton of holiday and party decorations at Grumpo's.  Seriously, if you're in NEPA and you need some cheap decorations for a kids party or a classroom or something, you could spend five bucks here and have more than enough to do a respectable job of it.  If you have more to spend, you could even pick up some pretty nice metal yard decorations.

These two stood out to me.  The one on the left is an air freshener that has a pine tree scent to make an artificial Christmas tree smell real.  I've seen things like this before, but the red elf is different.  The ornament on the right is from Woolworth, which went out of business in 1997.  They had a bunch of different types of ornaments from Woolworth's with at least a dozen of each in stock.

Last, but not least, there was a basket with a few boxes of classroom valentines from the mid 90's, including Jonny Quest, Veggie Tales, Lord Of The Rings, Disney, and Pirates Of Dark Water.  They were only a quarter each and I liked the cartoon, so I picked up a box of the Pirates ones.  I'll scan and share them later.

I can't explain why I like finding stores like this, but I do.  It makes me think about the companies that produced these things thinking that they had a product that people wanted.  I wonder about where and when these were first unpacked at a store and put on the shelves, and how many hundreds of shoppers must have walked past these things for weeks, or months, or years until they went unsold for long enough that they got packed up and shipped to another store, and then another.  How many years did they sit in a warehouse, forgotten until someone discovered them and thought that maybe they'd have better luck selling them.

Trust me, I know how dumb this sounds, but things like that fascinate the hell out of me.  Everyone and everything is on a journey, and I wonder if the journey that I'm on has much more meaning in the grand scheme of things than that bottle of Sea Breeze.  Maybe it does.  Maybe it doesn't.  Maybe it just doesn't matter, and that all that really matters is the here and now.  Or maybe I'm just thinking a little too deeply about a warehouse that's selling new old stock.