Just arrived this afternoon are quite possibly the coolest penguin accessories we’ve had since our legendary penguin shower cap of the mid-90′s. This time it’s an adult andkids sized penguin knit hat and mittens. The kids version that we received (fortunately) had no red bow tie on both the hat and mittens, but both the print and on-line catalog versions showed the silly bow tie, so at a loss as how to show the hats and mittens I received on www.penguin-place.com I asked my 6 year daughter Sophie to model them for me in front of the bathroom door, and I really think she did and excellent job. Even if I didn’t do such a great job photoshopping out the bathroom door.
Archive for October, 2009
I know it’s the day before Halloween, but who cares. The most important day for the toddling parents of Northampton is the annual Halloween P.I. Daycare (we like to call it camp) Parade down Main Street at 10:30 a.m. when the whole town comes out to look at about 75 pre-schoolers in various states of adorableness and sigh a collective awe sooooo cute. As you may have read my two year old Rose has been insisting on being a cow (we somehow inherited a cow costume last year), and although I was not totally convinced she has kept up this bovine fixation through most of October. That is until last night when she agreed that penguin costume would be cooler than a cow. Duh!? But, as two year old’s are how you might say, fickle. I was not convinced that she’d follow through and waddle out the door this morning in all her black and white polyester splendor. But, to my very pleasant surprise and absolute glee, not only did she wear it and waddle proudly in the parade, but she insisted on wearing it out the door this morning and waddled all the way to daycare, I mean camp in her costume, webbed feet and all. Yup, that’s my girl.
In an act of desperation, luck and good timing I asked my two year daughter Rose if she wanted to be a penguin for tomorrows Toddler Halloween Parade down Main Street. She had been steadfast in saying for more than a week that she only wanted to be a cow, and Sophie my oldest has been a cat for 3 years in a row. So when I posed the penguin question just before bedtime Rose who will do anything to put off going to bed said yes and that she wanted to try the costume on. O.K. I thought, this bedtime stalling may work out for both of us as I promptly bolted into the penguin place “costume vault” and in a flash had one deluxe, size 2-4 penguin costume in hand. After a quick out of the plastic, over the head, arms in the flippers, hood up and over head and kids feet in the webbed costume feet she was parading and waddling in front of the full length mirror like she was auditioning for the road company of Happy Feet The Musical. With a big grin she declared “O.K. daddy, I’ll be a penguin.” With that said, my 6 year old instantly blurted out, “Daddy, I want to be a penguin too.” Back to the penguin costume vault and return with a 7-10 costume in hand. Same thing, out of plastic, over head, arms in flippers, hood up on head, feet on. Everyone is cute and happy. Now I’ve gone from no penguins in the house to all the kids are penguins. The only caveat is that Sophie wants to remove her big red bow tie. Done. Now, let’s see if they change their minds in the morning and I end up with a cow and a cat instead of a pair of penguins. Kids.
Great story from the Brooklyn Paper July 2, 2008 by Michael Lipkin. Yes that’s my daughter Sophie throwing the confetti in the photo below.
It’s not every day that someone asks if he can propose to his girlfriend in your store — and it’s certainly rare if you own the world’s only all-penguin merchandising outlet. So owner Eric Bennett of Penguin Place knew he had a chance for a once-in-a-lifetime event.
“If anything, it gave me an excuse to clean up,” said Bennett, whose warehouse is on Water Street in DUMBO.
But Bennett did far more than that, turning his penguin-filled storeroom into a romantic getaway (romantic if you love Gentoos, that is).
The groom-to-be, Daniel Raymond, 21, came all the way from London to propose to his now-fiancée — and penguin devotee — Rachel Jacobs, 19, a New Jersey resident. Raymond planned the big day months ago when he contacted Bennett about setting up the proposal in the store, which is really just a backroom in Bennett’s DUMBO apartment.
Bennett put up as much penguin paraphernalia as he could in anticipation of the couple’s arrival. When Daniels and her sweetheart arrived, she was overcome. And The Brooklyn Paper was there.
“This is like heaven. I’ve never seen so many penguins in my life,” she exclaimed.
Daniels popped the question and offered a ring in a penguin-shaped box. Next, it was time for celebrating with eight of their friends and Bennett’s family. “I hope they have lots of kids,” Bennett said. “Kids that like penguins.”
Given that it was just my 50th birthday and we’re only a few months away from the 25th Anniversary of Penguin Place, I’ve been waddling down memory lane and mining some classic penguin press and stories from the past. This one is from 10 years ago and appeared in the front page o the Sunday NY Times City Section.
By Tara Bahrampour
NEGOTIATING her way past blocks of industrial warehouses, up a graffiti-covered stairwell and through an iron door that clangs shut behind her, the mother presents her plea.
”Remember I asked you about a penguin menorah?”
”Yeah,” comes the answer. ”I found one. But it had penguins and polar bears on it.”
”That’s fine,” she says excitedly. ”Did you get it for me?”
”No. I’m firmly opposed to penguins and polar bears together.”
Thus speaks Penguin Eric, emperor of a rarefied realm who tolerates no sloppiness when it comes to his favorite bird. Penguins live at the South Pole, polar bears at the North. As a purveyor of penguin paraphernalia around the globe, publisher of an international penguin newsletter, and guru for penguin lovers worldwide, it is up to him to uphold propriety.
It’s a big responsibility, but Penguin Eric, 39, whose real name is Eric Bennett, performs his duties happily. Each morning he wakes up in his spacious loft on Water Street in Dumbo, the artsy Brooklyn neighborhood down under the Manhattan bridge overpass, and steps behind a curtain. On the other side is the Igloo, a 900-square-foot wall-to-wall repository of plush stuffed penguins, penguin posters, inflatable penguins, penguin hockey jerseys, penguin potholders, beach towels, videos and key chains. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Mr. Bennett and his full-time assistant, Penguin Heather (Heather Stull), 28, are constantly on the alert for anything that comes in penguin, frequently updating their catalogue and Web site.
Growing up in Queens Village, Mr. Bennett said, he was ”pretty normal” until, as a history major at Queens College, he started dating a woman who ”liked ballet, Cape Cod and penguins.” But though he had caught the fever, filling his room with renditions of the black-and-white Antarctic bird, he didn’t consider making a career out of them until he visited an outdoor market in Boston one day in 1984.
”I was walking past all these themed pushcarts — pigs, Hello Kitty, rubber stamps — and I suddenly thought, ‘If I did a penguin one it would be cuter than any of them,’ ” he said.
Back in New York, he filled out a vendor application at the South Street Seaport, and to his surprise, he said, it was immediately accepted. Mr. Bennett moved back in with his parents, sold his car and scraped together $4,000 for a pushcart rental, fixtures and two weeks’ worth of inventory.
”My parents thought I was nuts,” he said. ”My grandparents didn’t understand. They thought I was selling real penguins.”
Within months, Mr. Bennett’s Next Stop . . . South Pole had expanded into a store in the Seaport, and he soon branched out to locations in Baltimore, Miami, Los Angeles, Colorado Springs and Washington. Eventually, he said, he realized that ”five more businesses meant 20 times more problems with staff and inventory.” Only his Baltimore outpost remains.
As for his New York business, Mr. Bennett said he decided it was time to migrate in June 1998, when he was told that his Seaport store rent would be doubling. He closed down his shop and turned his attention to the mail-order Web site, Penguin Place (www.penguin-place.com), which he had started three years earlier. Last year, he said, his business had sales of $350,000. This year, he said he expected a significant increase thanks to on-line sales, which he said have tripled in the last 12 months.
Still, skeptics might wonder if such a specific niche is dependable over the long run. It’s a delicate balance, Mr. Bennett said. Penguins must be in demand, but not too much. ”Penguins are cute, people like penguins, but if penguins get too popular, like if Macy’s started carrying them . . . .” He trailed off, unwilling to go there.
Mr. Bennett said his customers spanned national and cultural divides. ”We have a penguin-collecting rabbi and a penguin-collecting priest,” he said. ”We have really rich people on Park Avenue with collections insured in the six figures, antique crystal penguins and stuff like that.”
Perhaps Mr. Bennett’s strangest customer to date is a man known as Monsieur Pingouin, who goes around his small village in Belgium eating sardines and dressing like a penguin. ”He’s decided he’s metamorphosing into a penguin,” he said. ”He wants to be buried in his penguin costume, and he wants to donate his corpse to science so they can study how much of his body is actually penguin.”
But most of his clientele, he said, consists of ”middle-class, regular people.” Some come from as far away as Australia and New Zealand to load up on penguinalia. For others, Mr. Bennett’s living room, lined with antique cameras and vintage records, functions as a sort of penguin hearth where stories are exchanged.
Michael Ringler, 31, an actor and collector from Austin, Tex., who was visiting recently, tried to explain the attraction. ”Penguins are so mild, so friendly,” he said. ”They’re like someone from Iowa in the big city. There’s just a charm and an innocence about them.”
The menorah seeker, Belline Manopla, 36, a customer for 11 years, said she thought her penguin habit had a positive effect on her two toddlers. ”If you bring children to appreciate one particular subject, they learn a lot more quickly,” she said. ”My kids can quote facts about penguins.”
”My husband thinks I’m crazy,” she added, before turning to check out the rows of stuffed penguins awaiting new homes.
Congrats to Mr. Tim McCollum who at 9:47 pm tonight purchased our last remaining light weight adult penguin costume of 2009. I did place a rush order for the Deluxe Penguin Costume and they will be here tomorrow morning, but judging by the amount of people who have logged on to penguin place and have not ordered anything I have to think they they are a bit put off by the Deluxe Penguin Costume Price (double the lightwieght version) and are presently waddling around the internet in search of a source for a L/W version.
Boxes, boxes everywhere. It figures that when my newest helper Michelle needs a day off I have dozens of penguin costumes to get out, a parent / teacher conference to attend and 12 boxes of new items to schlep up the stairs, format and put on line and put away. Well, maybe I’ll put them away tomorrow. The newest waddlers include new penguin pillowcases, Mr. & Mrs. Wind Up Waddlers, a very cute Days of the Week Eraser Set, Munki Munki Penguin Flannel Robes and P.J.’s, two different Sniff Penguin tissue designs, a Photo / Memo Holder, a Penguin Eyeglasses holder and back in stock after a many month hiatus are the Adorable Emperor Chick Slippers, 45mm Snow globe and the Penguin Chick Shot Glass. Busy, busy, busy.
Looks like given the state of the economy our penguin costume distributer is playing it a bit conservative this year as they ran out of the womens / teen costume a couple of weeks ago and sold out of the light weight adult costume last week. So, I’ve decided to carry the original deluxe penguin costume for the rest of 2009 (as it’s the only adult penguin costume available). What’s the difference between the light weight and deluxe costume? The deluxe has much more penguin foam bulk to it throughout, giving it more of a roly poly penguin look, and will make it a longer lasting penguin keeper for years to come, and the penguin feet are sturdier. In any case, it’s all we have until sometime mid 2010. BTW, as of noon today we still have a half dozen light weight penguin costumes available.
You would think a post that is titled Shopping Penguin would have something to do with Penguin Place, but I just came across a quick little youtube video of a montage of scenes of Oliver Oken with a song playing over the one minute vid called Shopping Penguin. Who is Oliver Oken you ask? Well, he’s kind of a lovable, dorky character on the Hannah Montana Show and I only know this because my daughter likes, no loves the show and I like to know what’s going into her brain. The song Shopping Penguin is so cool, cute and catchy (especially if you’re into penguins) that you’ll be singing it in or out of your head for the next 36 hours minimum. You’ll see.
Today marked the start of Michelle our new Penguin Place helper and I couldn’t be happier. Not only did she read up on Penguin Place in “About Penguin Place section of our home page last night, but she sat through the entire six plus minutes of Penguin Place : A Passion For Penguins with a smile on her face the entire time. After which she said, “let’s get started”, and we had lots of work to catch up on after my fun filled NYC weekend away. She picked up on everything I showed her like she was born to waddle, and the topper was when I came back from a trip to the bank and a quick lunch I found her vacuuming as she was done making Priority Mail labels. I thought that was going above and beyond the call of penguin duty, but I was not about to argue. So, with Michelle’s help I was able to get all of the weekends and todays orders (many of which were expedited shipping penguin costumes) well on their way by the time I had to go pick up the kiddies at school. When we got home to find my wife was already back from work and just as I was about to apologize for leaving a mess in the kitchen when she thanked me for “tidying up”. Thanks Michelle. You’re officially off of Penguin Probation.