This Moment In Penguin History

With this March 15th marking our 25th anniversary we at Penguin Place will from time to time bring you another moment in Penguin Place (Next Stop South Pole) history. In this installment we’ve come across a design sketch that we used to put together our first “real” store in 1989. Between 1985 and 1988 we went from a pushcart at South St. Seaport’s Fulton Market Building to a couple of kiosks, the later being bigger than the first. But, with the opening of the Pier 17 building Next Stop South Pole was offered a 600 square foot store on the 3rd floor of new building and our vision for an all-penguin store would finally be realized. At least as much of a vision as we could fill in 600 square feet. Our vision ( mine and my store manager and designer Robin ) was to have the shop look like the ultimate penguin collectors home. All our penguin bathroom stuff would be in a bathroom (less tub and toilet), our kitchen would feature a table with large penguins ( that we nicknamed Elvis) sitting on chairs at the table and an old 1950’s fridge with the shelves filled with penguin kitchen items as well as some plastic and rubber fish we found at a bait and tackle shop. We also stocked the shelves in the fridge door with cans of Penguin Soda which was the house brand soda of the old Grand Union supermarket. It’s only took a few hours before someone wanted to buy a can of Penguin Cola, so weekly trips to Grand Union became the norm for a few years until Grand Union sadly changed their soda branding to something more generic. The fridge stayed with Penguin Place until this past June when we decided not to schlep it up to Northampton. The store living room featured a 1950’s TV that we gutted the inside, put a new monitor and a VCR inside and played loop tapes of whatever penguin nature videos we were offering. This TV is now in my home and it always amazes people that not only does this 50 + year old TV work, but it incredibly plays in color. Sometimes I tell ’em there’s a new monitor in the old shell and sometimes I don’t. This sketch that I have is of the penguin bathroom, and notice it features (on the right) Opus in a shower cap and towel, and a Chilly Willy mirror. There’s also a penguin toilet brush and plunger, as well as a street sign that reads Penguin Ave. The shower curtain of penguins wind surfing was never one of my favorites, but that was the only style available at the time. Sadly, although the 3rd floor Pier 17 NSSP Penguin Store was a success, three years later in 1992, the Seaport in their infinite wisdom decided not to renew my lease and replace us with a Nintendo store.  When I pointed out to Seaport management that people didn’t come to South St. for Nintendo (one could find that stuff in any mall), but for unique stores like Next Stop South Pole, and that booting us for Nintendo violates the principles that the “festive marketplace concept” was all about. They told me that Nintendo would pay them almost double what I was paying.  This short sightedness was typical of Seaport management back then and what led to the inevitable decline in popularity of South St. Seaport.  I secured another shop and moved downstairs to a tiny 240 square foot mini igloo where NSSP stayed until 1998 when I finally ended my relationship with the Seaport and moved to Brooklyn where Penguin-Place.com was born. The Nintendo shop was out of business in about a year and that space was followed by one failed business and temporary store after another. To this day I still won’t play Nintendo.

1989 sketch for the "penguin bathroom" of the Pier 17 Next Stop South Pole shop.

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