Darlene's




Sometime in between scouting for items to sell on Ebay at yard sales and then switching to auctions I found myself in a local store that was unlike anything I had seen before. 

This story is for posterity, giggles, and a little shock value, nothing more. 

It's a memory of a strange encounter that seemed the norm for the town I live in. 

We'd gone to lunch on what we've dubbed Date Day and were at a restaurant directly across the street from what I could only call a junk shop. After eating I begged my husband to check it out with me, "just for fun," because I'm always up for an odd adventure. 

The store was called Darlene's Kids Shop but I grew to call it Darlene's House of Horrors....

People would take their used items to the shop to sell or trade for items in the store. She'd been in business for over twenty-five years and had so much stuff that she no longer knew what was in there.

Imagine rows and aisles stuffed so full that the store vomited some of its wares out onto the sidewalk. Hand-written signs reminded me of shopping in Playa Del Carmen in Mexico. We entered the store to find an old man sitting in a tattered recliner. He greeted us by telling us the sale of the day, which I later found out was the sale of everyday. Three little dogs barked at our heels as we dodged feces and urine all over the floor. Walking deeper in, we noted that every aisle was stacked floor-to-ceiling with decades worth of used stuff. The cluttered aisles were so narrow that only one person could pass through at a time. The entire length of the store, sides and back, were stacked with board games, beginning at about the top of my head to the ceiling. I immediately went into seller mode and began snapping pictures of each stack of roughly ten to fifteen games from the 1980's through today. I purchased a few items that day and went home to do some research with the games I'd photographed. I went back the next day and bought all of the ones I knew I could make money on.

Interesting side note: One of those games was sold to a man who contacted me and told me he was the child pictured on the box and that he'd been looking for the game for years so he could share it with his children. These are the reasons I love selling online.

Back to he H.O.H.

There were thousands of DVD's (seven thousand to be exact) and CD's (three thousand). Bins stuffed full of naked Barbie dolls. Action figures and stuffed animals from every movie, television show, and book series imaginable. Baby toys, baby gear, baby blankets, baby everything....I actually bought one of my favorite vintage blankets there. Handmade baby quilt with animals all over it. It's quilted and vintage and well worn and perfect for a cool evening. Knick-knacks and kitschy items, electronics, video games, old televisions, everything used that you could imagine. 

It surprised people when I told them I'd go into this shop. They'd look at me, aghast, and wonder why but it became my little cash cow for a while. I went in less than ten times over the years, always finding little treasures to sell. I learned to wear the boots I wore in the backyard when I was cleaning up the dog poop. I wouldn't shower before I went, I'd workout and then toss on some junk clothes over my workout clothes. It didn't bother me to go in there because I was raised going to thrift stores and junk stores. My mother taught me the thrill of the hunt. To most people it was appalling, to me it was just a place to find inventory. 

The H.O.H. has since closed. The last time I went in the owners mentioned that the store was for sale, everything for just $7,000

Considering that it was still stuffed full and it was rumored to be that way upstairs and in the basement, I briefly considered it. I'd once caught a glimpse into the back room (hidden behind a curtain) and it was stuffed full too. The H.O.H. is now being emptied, dump truck full at a time, by an excavating company. This eye sore is now history but I know the rest of the story.

The store was purchased and everything was sorted. The basement revealed vintage toys and games that probably would have made my heart stop. The new owner made over seven times his investment back and is still selling. He's moved what he wanted to keep into a more organized (anything would be more organized!) store somewhere else. 

About seventeen years ago I dreamed of a shop like the H.O.H. In  my dream I was in a store that wasn't very well-lit with items stuffed to the ceiling and that's what it reminded me of the first time I set foot in Darlene's. I'm not sure another place like it exists and I'm not sure why it was allowed to exist in the shape it was in. It wasn't a place I was proud of, but I did take an occasional visiting guest there because you really did have to see it to believe it.

The above picture really is from the H.O.H.

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