Archive for February, 2014

Uncle Fun

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My favorite postcard shop in Chicago is gone. They closed on January 26 and luckily I heard about it from a friend and made multiple visits in their final three weeks.  Uncle Fun wasn’t exclusively a postcard shop. It was a novelty store chock full of the weird and the cool: robots, windup toys, sock monkeys, rubber chickens, fake poop, books, nice reading glasses ($6!!!), plastic doll heads, original art, posters, candy, lunch boxes and the list goes on…..There was a basement full of at least 25 years of stock so each time I came, more treasures were uncovered. Everything was 50% off but once one made it through the line that snaked around the store, the owner and employee’s were slinging deals beyond that discount.

Even though the place was packed, everyone was very civilized. There was a mournful, nostalgic, respectful atmosphere among these shoppers. Many were long time customers. We were all feeling the collective loss of a unique piece of our shopping history. For me it started with the first store “Goodies” on Halsted, that I frequented in the 80’s. When they closed and Uncle Fun opened I only occasional made my way there to shop until an injury landed me at a chiropractor’s office right next door. At just about the same time I joined postcrossing.com so shopping for postcards before or after my appointments became a regular pastime. Their selection of cards were unusual like everything else. They even had real vintage cards mixed in with the new ones. On top of that, the prices were very reasonable, considering the unique stock.

Uncle Fun was one of the places I would always bring friends visiting Chicago. It was often a stop on my Couchsurfing.org bicycle tours and I definitely brought Postcrossing visitors there to shop.  Happiness and delight were a sure thing. Exhibit A: Ricardo making his Uncle Fun face. He is clearly having a good time!

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On their last day, I went in the morning, shortly after opening time, with my friend Chris. We were each handed a bag and told that everything in the store was free except for stuff behind the counter.  Anyone could have walked out with a whole box of cards and yet they seemed to only pick what they wanted. No one was grabby or greedy.  After about an hour,  Chris was done but I was NOT.  I knew I couldn’t continue to shop with him waiting, so I left, dropped him home and went back! I pretty much spent the whole day there.

The owner Ted was there and through out the day I watched a parade of long time friends and customers chat, hug and pay their respects to the end of an era. He even had donuts and cookies for the shoppers. I didn’t really know  Ted because most of the time he wasn’t there when I shopped but after sharing these last days I felt like I had to say goodbye and thank him. When I did, I found myself crying and hugging him like we were old friends. Here’s an excellent picture that I snagged off Facebook:

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You gotta love this guy, if anything, just for this picture! He’s moved to Baltimore and opened a shop called Sideshow at the American Visionary Art Museum. It makes me happy to know that the spirit of Uncle Fun still lives in another city and I’m definitely going to check it out!