When Kids Knew BEST

Image via Architecture + Branding

Rights reserved by Joe Architect

One of my best friends, J., reminded me of Best Products the other day, specifically the Best catalog (no luck finding one, yet). The store I remember was down the street from the West Covina Fashion Plaza mall, and was easily walkable. Best was the place to hit first for action figures and toys of any kind. First, they tended to be less expensive than other stores. And second, because it was not specifically a kids store like Toys “R” Us, we had a better chance (or thought we did) of finding the good stuff. As I recall, it was also really easy to hide the good stuff somewhere else in the toy aisles and come back later when allowance day rolled around.

Toys were not a company priority, I know now, because Best’s retail model, per Wikipedia, “employed the `catalog showroom’ concept for many of its product offerings. Although some product categories (such as sporting goods and toys) were stocked in traditional self-serve aisles, the majority of products (notably consumer electronics, housewares, and appliances) were featured as unboxed display models. Customers were permitted to examine and experiment with these models, and if found to be desirable, they could be purchased by submitting orders to store personnel. Saleable versions of the merchandise (typically boxed and/or in its original packaging) would then be retrieved from storage and delivered to a customer service area for subsequent purchase.”

Image via Architecture + Branding

Rights reserved by channaher

This last shot makes me sad. Not only because one day I’ll look like this, but because the tactile, do-it-yourself ethic implicit in basic blocks, action figures, marbles, Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, Legos, Erector Sets, board games, handheld games—is in a similar state of disrepair.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t think our generation is better or purer for having had these things. Our dads had even less props than we did, after all, and I’m sure they found it slightly askew that their sons spent so much time sitting on their asses staging elaborate adventures in which Snake Eyes, after being shot 26 times and drowned in a vat of flesh-eating acid, would somehow put himself back together again and rescue the sex-starved Scarlett from Destro, Darth Vader, the Shogun Warriors, and Godzilla.

Still, it’s sad to see my childhood haunts, one by one, come to such undignified ends.

2 Responses to “When Kids Knew BEST”

  1. 1 leftylimbo March 20, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Ugh. Always a heartbreak to see icons of our fondest memories withering away in neglect.

    On a happier note, I had no idea that BEST was part of that SITE experiment, which was awesome! Wow.

    I’m almost positive that the second to last picture of the BEST lot (with the empty trailer in it) is not in Texas (as credited on the original site), but rather in Northridge, CA. I worked nearby, and used to drive by it all the time. I remember that sign and lot specifically, and got sad myself at the state it was in.

  1. 1 Tomy’s TRON Light Cycles (1982) | 2 Warps to Neptune Trackback on November 5, 2014 at 3:14 pm

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