Monday, January 08, 2007

Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store / 826NYC

Brooklyn Superhero Supply

The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store in Park Slope is a front, an elegant sham and a beautiful hoax. If this store had been around when I was seven I might have moved in completely, coming home only to quickly inhale a meal and racing back with imagined super-speed. I'm 30 now and still considering it.

The store itself claims to sell all manner of super-equipment, including canned chaos, an apprehended mini-blob, various grappling hooks and secret identity products. They offer capes in all colors and even have a cape-testing area where you can stand on a steel grate and flick a switch that powers several fans, causing said capes to furl and flutter.

The signage in there is omnipresent, dry, and freaking hysterical:

Please Avoid the Robot

My favorite display, hands-down, was the Super-Skeleton:

Super Skeleton

This link will take you to a Flickr set of photos from the store.

The store itself is a cover for the 826NYC program, a nonprofit that offers free homework help to kids between the ages of 6 and 18. White-hot literary superstars Sarah Vowell and Dave Eggers are on 826's board. The 826 program itself is an outgrowth of McSweeney's, and their brand of bone-dry hipster comedy permeates the place. Proceeds from the sale of superhero equipment and memorabilia fund the 826 program. The store also sells a full complement of McSweeney's-related releases including Eggers' latest book, recent issues of The Believer, and pretty much anything the McSweeney's press has cranked out.

But real magic at the Superhero Store isn't the grappling hooks, the capes, the Secret Identity Kits, all of which would blow a kid's tiny mind. It's that there are NO kids in the store itself -- or there weren't when I was there. You can hear the sounds of kids laughing and talking bubbling from behind the walls, off doing something better, even better than messing around with superhero gear.

I got a volunteer to let me past the store's secret door and into the reading room itself. The atmosphere was magical. Kids were coloring, drawing, writing and LOVING it. There were no toys, to GameBoys, no electronic devices, just kids flexing their imaginations in a way that will never die.

This quote from McSweeney's Questions and Answers About 826NYC says it much better than I could:

Everywhere you look, at every available desk, table, or couch, there are two people—one student and one adult tutor—hunched over one piece of paper, getting the words just right. It's just plain beautiful.

It's true, totally true, every word.


At 2:59 PM, Blogger Listmaker said...

i've been meaning to bring my class there. a teacher at my school last year brought her class there. they do whole group lessons to create books as well as doing the tutoring.

i'd like to tutor there as well but i'm not sure i'm hip enough.

i live 2 blocks from the store for at least another couple of months before i move out of the neighborhood.

At 7:26 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

I keep trying to figure out what superpower I'd want. And where to get my supplies. I could use a little canned chaos.

At 7:28 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Oh, and thanks - for the reminder that I need to get back into tutoring and for being so gosh-darn entertaining. I'm happily adding you to my list of regular reads.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger gwadzilla said...

my kids love capes...

I go more in the direction of the INCREDIBLES

which of course is cape-less

I have a few cape projects in the back of my mind

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Claire Bidwell Smith said...

826 is truly a fantastic organization. I highly reccomend getting involved if there is one in your city (LA, NYC, SF, Chicago, Seattle, and Michigan).

You can read some of my old blog posts about helping to open to 826LA here, here, and here. Helping bring that place to life was an absolutely amazing experience.

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Jiminy Crow said...

I knew I saw you in front of Enid's!


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