Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Theme Park Connection - artifacts from the parks, for sale

Have you ever wanted to take home a piece of the parks?

Now you can! There have been "liquidator" stores before in the Orlando area, but it always seemed like the managers couldn't quite figure out how to be fan friendly and business-smart at the same time, so they struggled, either financially or creatively. There's a new one in town - a few months old now - called Theme Park Connection, and in my opinion it "gets" it pitch-perfect.

It's a store in Winter Garden, about 9 miles north of Disney property (you have to take the toll road 429, on the Western - or DAK - side of the Disney property). You could be there in 15 minutes from the time you hop on the toll road, so it's not very far away at all.

Inside, you'll find a shop. This is a very browsable, very well-laid out space designed to make the Disney nerd of the family (that's me!) just positively geek out. Two walls full of pins? Check? An entire room stuffed to the gills with Disney books, pamphlets, souvenir guides, and a billion other paper things, most of them out of print? Check!

Snowglobes, keychains, little toys, you name it, they have it. Figurines, plates, and frames, too.

Even more exciting than selling the stuff the parks sold, they also sell stuff that was IN the parks, like signage once used at attractions, or even props from attractions. They have costumes (uniforms) for sale, and nametags ($8) too. It's irresistible.

They run a thriving eBay business as well. Some of their hotter items will go up for auction. But often, you can find second, third, or fourth versions of those items in the store, too... AND THEY ARE NOT MARKED UP!! The owner (Marc) and manager (Brian) are fans themselves and want to run the business in a way that keeps fans coming back, so they resist the temptation to mark up items in the store. Instead, they price things based on what Disney charges them for it. That stained glass window actually removed from Cinderella's castle went for $800 online, but there's another one in the store for $500. Get it while you can!

In fact, their merchandise rotates quickly. Apparently there is such a thriving trade, and so many repeat visitors, that they always have new stuff. Things just pour in.

It's not just Disney: they also get stuff from you, the public! This store doubles as a pawnshop for Disney stuff, so you really can "buy, sell, trade" with them.

Prices are extremely reasonable. One dollar for a perfect-condition acrylic keychain showing the "cake castle" from several years ago? Yes please. You can't buy this stuff anyplace else!

They are open Monday-Friday from 10-4, and Saturday from 10-2. They are not open on Sundays.

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.