Saturday, April 27, 2013

The One Of A Kind Shop

Back in the day before Disney merchandise overtook the Park, it was possible for guests to find treasures from all over the world. One of the most beloved shops was the One Of A Kind antique shop in New Orleans Square. Here's an article from The Disneyland Line, date July 5, 1979:

They're Not Getting Older...They're Getting More Valuable!

The shop is small, situated on a well-traveled corner. The French doors, opened wide, reveal a decor best described as "creative clutter." Upon entering, you are confronted with a large, ornately carved dining set Austrian, circa 1860. The tabletop hosts a variety of brass -- door knockers, candlesticks, bells and statuettes. In display cases throughout the shop you see English China, Italian porcelain and German bisque. One nook houses an elaborate bedstead of the '30's.

The scene could be the interior of any of a number of quality antique stores, except for one thing -- location! That "well-traveled corner" is right here in Disneyland, and this unique antique collection resides in our overt own One Of A Kind shop in New Orleans Square.

Besides being one of the most interesting of our merchandise locations, One Of A Kind is probably the most famous outside the Park. Stage Supervisor Jack Onyett commented that "people will often come out to Disneyland for the sole purpose of acquiring something from this shop. Either they've been here before, to look, and now are back to buy, or they've heard that we have something of interest to them."

The buyer in charge of keeping One Of A Kind a tempting lure to antique buyers is Hildegard Webster, a Cast Member since 1961. Her realm also includes the Gold and Silver shops, the Parfumerie and Le Gourmet.

Although One Of A Kind is themed primarily to European antiques (you'll find some early American oak in this group), all the buying is done on this side of the Atlantic. Hildegard is naturally reluctant to reveal her sources, but she will admit that she sticks pretty close to the L.A. and Orange County areas, and "attends a lot of auctions."

At one time, buyers did cross the ocean to search for their treasures, but in the long run this just wasn't practical. "Now," says Hildegard, "the merchandise is close at hand and it enables me to look on year-round basis."

The items vary in age, price and description from alabaster eggs selling for $1.50 each to washstands priced at $650, to the nine-piece dinette set the recently sold for $5900!

The oldest are sets of 18th Century microscopes and nautical instruments. There is even an optometrist's kit from the late 1800's, complete with measuring devices and lenses still intact. But New Orleans Lead Pat Cannon and Hostess Joani Magin agree that the most fascinating item they've yet encountered was the elaborate Gregorian Chant Book dated 1607!

It's interesting to note, too, that even here in the land of antiques there are some endangered species, clocks are getting scarce and the prices have become prohibitive. The ones now available in One Of A Kind are in excellent condition and are very modestly priced.

Although some reproductions are handled, notably chandeliers, needlepoint pillows and bell pulls, the majority of the articles, and all the furniture, are genuine.

"One of a kind" in merchandise, this cozy corner also has some "one of a kind" challenges. For instance, when a large hutch or dining set is purchased, nearly the entire shop has to be dismantled to remove it. From New Orleans, it goes to the Warehouse for pick-up or delivery. Since this procedure has to take place after operating hours, it means that at 5:00 the next morning, Hildegard, a stock person and a Lead must attempt to groom the disheveled shop before the Park opens. According to everyone who has ever been involved, "It's a disaster when we get here! If you've never seen it, you can't even imagine it." But they've never failed to finish on time!

"One of a kind" implies the unique, the unusual, the out-of-the-ordinary, from odd to awesome. But to us here at Disneyland, One Of A Kind is that most charming corner shop in New Orleans that knows the beauty of age.

See more vintage & current Disneyland New Orleans Square photos on my New Orleans Square web pages.


Ben Myers said...

This is really the one shop I would love to see return to Disneyland. But sadly it probably never will. It harkens to a past era of high standards and showmanship at Disneyland But for it to return, it would take too much effort on the part of TDA. It's just easier to cram the place full of hoodies, plush toys, and the never-ending avalanche of "Disney Parks" products. But the worst part of merchandising at the park is those horrible 'bought in bulk right off the dock' disposable toys they sell during the fireworks. That junk is cheap and tawdry, and really bring down the quality of the Disneyland show, and makes Main Street USA look like any county fair or carnival in the country.

Anonymous said...

Dave, thank you for this post. This was one of my Mom's favorite shops. Dad & I would wait patiently while she browsed, after the ride on POTC. As I recall it, there was a side door into this shop from the POTC exit. You could just slide right it.

I still have a letter opener in the shape of a Toledo sword Dad purchased in this shop. Not all the merchandise was antique or expensive. We couldn't afford anything like that. I think they made or brought in some good quality things to mix in, that fit with the look.

I wish your last picture was in color, since it perfectly captures the interior as I recall it. The walls were ivory white with a beige wash, you can see the streaks in the pic, upper right. Very elegant.

@Ben Meyers: It's somehow appropriate that this location is now full of the cheap plastic junk sold everywhere else in the Park. Symbolic of the failure to understand in the current management.


keeline said...

We used to shop there regularly and I often though at the time how unusual it was to have something like this in Disneyland. In the 1970s, as I understand it, the Disneyana shop on Main Street had actual vintage items like old tickets.

I bought an Edward Stratemeyer book from them that is still part of my collection. I was working in an antiquarian bookstore in the 1990s so I'd always look to their barrister cases of books to see if there was anything of interest.

In Orange there is a cluster of antique stores and malls. I can imagine it being a source of material when the store was open.

If they wanted to do something like that today, they would probably have about 50% of the merchandise be consignments from antique dealers and the other part things that they could get as inexpensive vintage items and reproductions. That'll probably never happen, however. Every square foot of retail space must be maximized for profit over show.


Vikki said...

I loved to see this store as a kid! I agree it probably would never come back, but it's fun to imagine a new home for it -- maybe in DCA on Buena Vista street, or in DTD.