Yep, that’s a giant piece of bacon welcoming shoppers to Archie McPhee. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel
Where can you find the world’s largest rubber chicken, sardine-flavored candy canes and a librarian action figure?
Of course it’s Seattle’s own Archie McPhee, the novelty shop in Wallingford specializing in wonky gag gifts and doodads. The weird and wonderful store, adored by kids and adults alike, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
Founder Mark Pahlow, a life-long collector of oddities, got his start selling ridiculous things out of his house in Los Angeles. Business grew, so he packed everything into a U-Haul and moved to Seattle. In 1983, Pahlow opened Archie McPhee, a store named after his eccentric great uncle.
At the Archie McPhee store, the vibe is more yard sale than upscale; prices start at 50 cents — for an itty bitty brain eraser. And it’s best to bring along a juvenile sense of humor. In other words, it’s perfect for kids.
Stop in and have a browse. You never know what treasures you’ll find. To get you started, we picked out 10 of our favorite Archie McPhee essentials that you most definitely need.
Essential items from Archie McPhee
1. Your fortune from Cap’n Archie Fortune Teller
Insert two quarters into the slot (U.S. quarters only, as any other coin will jam the machine) and get your fortune on a card. Cap’n Archie’s piercing blue eyes are watching you! Cost: $.50
2. Fancy bandages
Stop tears in their tracks with these fancy Band-Aids. Designs include cupcakes, pickles, leech, sloth nurse and bacon. “Uff-da!” bandages fit any bandage-requiring occasion. Cost: $3.99 a box
3. Wallingford Beast air freshener
A must-see at Archie McPhee is the Wallingford Beast, a creature with a spidery body and skull-like head. According to store lore, he was discovered when the store moved to its Wallingford location in 2010 and the staff found bones and heard strange sounds.
Now the Wallingford Beast lives in a glass aquarium by day, roams freely by night and even has his own Twitter account. Commemorate your visit with your own Wallingford Beast air freshener. Cost: $3
4. Nose pencil sharpener
The most educational item (if you can call it that) we found at Archie McPhee is a nose pencil sharpener. Insert your pencil up the nostril to sharpen it. Technically, this counts as a school supply? Of course. Cost: $2
5. Glow-in-the-dark finger zombie
Because you never know when you might need a zombie finger puppet! Next to the glow-in-the-dark display, there’s a glow-in-the-dark feature where you insert a nickel and through a peephole you can look into a little glow-in-the-dark world. (The nickel fee is on your honor; you just flip the switch at the side of the box to turn it on.) Cost: $1.50
6. Rubber chicken
The squeaking chicken was originally developed as a dog toy, and for no reason at all it became an icon. It’s Archie McPhee’s flagship item. In fact, Archie McPhee is home of the Rubber Chicken Museum (admission: free) so it’s only right that you bring home your own rubber chicken as a memento.
The bigger the bird, the louder the squawk. A sign by the rubber chicken display politely asks customers, “For the sanity of our staff, please only squeak once!”
Archie McPhee’s rubber chickens come in all shapes and sizes, from a $1 pocket glow-in-the-dark version to the World’s Largest Chicken. We like the $8.95 classic deluxe version rubber chicken, from Archie McPhee’s in-house line. Cost: $1 and up
7. Tiny things
You never know what surprises you’ll find in the tower of tiny bins. Each compartment holds plastic figures the size of a thumbnail. Tiny penguin, tiny Eiffel Tower, tiny hamburger, tiny meerkat, tiny bison… Why would you need any of these? Why wouldn’t you need any of these? Cost: $.50–$2
8. Unusual candy canes
Candy canes aren’t just for the holidays, they’re for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can cover all your food groups with Archie McPhee’s candy cane flavors such as brisket, Caesar salad, sour cream and onion, pickle, mushroom, pho, ketchup, mac and cheese, sardine, hot dog, butter, kale and bacon. Who’s hungry? Cost: $6.95 for a box of 6
9. Party pooper
You haven’t earned your full parenting stripes until you’ve survived potty training. During that stage, you’ve no doubt discovered poops in places no one should find poops. Someday you’ll laugh about it, they said. Today’s the day. Welcome, faux turd. Cost: $5.50
10. Glow-in-the-dark unicorn mask
Don’t forget the latex glow-in-the-dark unicorn mask. This one might be best left for older kids or adults; it’s a little tricky to see or breathe out of it, but, wow, will you ever turn heads. Archie McPhee has an entire unicorn section, with more kid-friendly options like unicorn finger puppets and unicorn socks. Cost: $29.95
Happy birthday, Archie McPhee!
If you go...
Hours: Sunday–Thursday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Parking: There’s a small parking lot on the west side of the building, and free street parking nearby.
More wacky fun with kids around Seattle: