You might think having your own penguin store is fun. Especially when it’s exclusively on-line. I get to pretty much make my own hours, I’m my own boss, it’s fun and great outlet to be creative, and it’s especially fulfilling if you really do love penguins like I do. Not to mention I can’t get fired. But, as my family and I have recently migrated to Northampton, Mass from our longtime home in Brooklyn NY we’ ve all been busy this past summer meeting and greeting friends in our adopted hometown. My wife has a new job and with it new work buddies, my kids were in camp this summer and now are in school and have quickly made new friends. Our transition so far has gone surprisingly smoothly, but for me I now find myself feeling a bit awkward as I keep answering the question “so what do you do?” from just about everyone I meet, be it my kids friends parents, people at the gym, guys I play ball with, folks at the school PTA meeting, locals at the bagel store, people at playgrounds, bartenders, grocery clerks, workers behind the counter at coffee shops, video store clerks, etc. Just about anyone I meet and strike up a conversation with will inevitably ask that standard what do you do question in short order. Back in NY where I lived my whole life just about everyone already knew what I did, and I only had to answer this query every once in a while, but up here it’s been coming up at a fast and furious pace. Obviously, I want to be polite, make new friends and wrankle as few feathers as possible, but the question as innocent as it sounds quickly grows tiresome at the pace of 5 – 10 times a day depending on how much I get out, and that simple question does not stand alone as soon as I answer it. The simple reply “I sell penguins, not real penguins mind you, but anything to do with penguins, you know t-shirts, jewelry, salt & pepper shakers, calendars, etc,” invariably raises a very quick eyebrow or three and then leads to a multitude of follow up questions. “What kind of penguins? “Why penguins? “How did you start? Do that many people really like penguins? How long have you been doing this? “ You get the picture. Each answer invariably invites a follow up question and the process can stretch on for a while. Many times the dialog does a 360 and questions begin to repeat themselves as if the person doesn’t truly believe me the first time. Sometimes, I can preempt and answer most of the questions with one prolonged opening statement, and if I play if just right, I can quickly turn the table and ask the person what they do, then try to look as interested and fascinated as possible. Even if they run the shoe concession at the local bowling alley or bus tables at the Applebees on Route 9, if I can get them talking about themselves for a bit they may forget about me being “the penguin guy” just long enough for me to make a socially acceptable exit without me spending more than a couple of minutes explaining myself. That is until the next day when I get introduced to one of my new friends pals which invariably goes along the lines of “Hey, this is that guy Eric I told you about, you know, the one who sells nothing but penguins…” and with a polite forced smile on my face here I go again. I figure that there’s 30,000 people in Northampton so I have about another 6 – 9 months of explaining. I may complain, but you know I really love it.
Archive for September, 2009
Just how popular have penguins become? Earlier this summer I took my daughter to the Mets new stadium (which I won’t name for reasons too numerable to list), and during our initial walk through of the ballpark we came across a curious sight in the gift shops. There amongst the scores of Met and baseball related items in every shape, size and color were a couple of different sized plush penguins wearing Met t-shirts. Upon spotting these my daughter pointed and shouted,”Look daddy, Met Penguins!” We pondered what these penguins have to do with the Mets and just chalked it up to the recent upsurge of penguin popularity. It’s nice to know that penguins in some small way might help pay for a free agent signing or two during the off season, the Mets can certainly use the help. So, move over Mr. Met.
This afternoon I took some pictures of my little girl Rose with my new fleece penguin hat and scarf and the pictures were simply adorable. I’m sorry I know everyone thinks their kid is adorable, but I dare you to find something, anything cuter than this kid?
A baby chipmunk, a new born seal, anything. I dare you. Tonight i received a call from Joyce in Florida who claims she spied a man on a motorcycle at an intersection wearing a penguin backpack and she loved it so much she ran into the street, tapped him on the shoulder and asked him where he got it. Penguin Place he replied, and when she got home she googled Penguin Place an gave me a call.
Hey there penguin fans. I was interviewed last week for a full hour by The Right Click radio show hosted by Mark Lampert and Richard Lee. Their show is usually a half hour long, but I must have been so interesting & entertaining talking about Penguin Place that it went on for an hour. If you’d like to listen there’s an on-line podcast at
This is my first blog entry and there’s lots of pressure to make it interesting. I’m Eric the head penguin of
an all penguin web site that’s been around since 1997 on-line and 1985 as a brick and mortar. Although it’s just past Labor Day weekend, it’s beginning to look allot like Christmas here as it does every year when our holiday inventory begins to arrive. It’s one of the strange things about being in retail that I can never get used to is that we’re always a couple of months ahead of the season. Last month was the retail beginning of Halloween (ordering & receiving costumes), presently the Christmas stuff is starting to arrive and in a couple of months it’ll be Valentine’s Day. Oh, well. Happy Holidays!