Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Once in awhile, you write to a friend and think--"Hey, this would make a good blog post, too!".
With apologies to Larry for its additions and double use... ;^)

There's a goofy store in St Cloud that's been there as long as I can remember. It's on the "bad" side of town, where all the sad industrial businesses are--Sally Ann, scrap iron, cut rate and salvage businesses--and this one: "Gopher Bargain Center".

Yesterday, we decided we needed an adventure, and since we found ourselves on the East Side, we had lunch at the Copper Lantern, and then stopped at Gopher.

It used to be all merchandise salvaged from fires or disasters, so lots of it had smoke damage, and the whole rabbit warren of a store always smelled of Pine Sol and smoke. These days, there's a huge wholesale Gopher-equivalent somewhere...and their merchandise is just ordered in (we asked...lol).

There are whole aisles of "brain fart" products that make you shake your head...lol...and hardly any evidence of smoke damage.

It always amazes me how such a peripheral-to-my-life place can call up such vivid memories: as a kid, going there with Dad and knowing that, if he bought something in bulk, it'd better be something for the garage, 'cuz Mom wouldn't use stuff from Gopher if she could help it.

It was always good for "scores" though--especially massive quantities of crafty stuff like pipe cleaners or "good enough" lace, ya know?

I think about the relative handful of "old" merchandise we have at Scenic, but in light of Gopher's REALLY old stock, it doesn't even compare. There's one whole area of Gopher that's from dead hardware stores, and it's gray, dark, and dirty--like nobody's cared since 1942 or so.

These days, the place is being tricked-out to look better, but it's like painting the roller coaster at a derelict theme park...one spiffy ride/aisle makes the ferris wheel/rest of the store look even more scruffy...lol You know it's fake, and won't last.

Why am I telling you about it? Dunno, except it was vivid...it's a place I always resist going to, but it draws me at the same time.

Yes, of course I bought stuff: a new toilet seat, two oven mitts, a big metal spoon, Speed Stick, and a filigree metal basket for the counter in the bathroom...for $18.36 total.

I didn't say I had high standards, only that I'm a bit conflicted about going there...lol No doubt the sibs and my kids have stories of their own to add...right?


  1. Anonymous8:18 AM

    Absolutely the sibs (or at least this one) have stories to add. I loved Gopher and resisted going there too. There was always something to buy - some of it even marginally "necessary" - and there was always the thrill of maybe finding a real treasure. Of course, when I did find a treasure, there was a moral dilemma thanks to all that Catholic schooling: they didn't know the real value of what they had there and so they were selling it incredibly cheap. Was I obligated to do the honest thing and tell them how valuable this thing was or was it morally OK to take the goods and run? I always chose Plan B. I remember finding perfectly fine imported pure wool yarn there. They were selling for less than a dollar when the going price was closer to $5. The moral dilemma slowed me down for about two nanoseconds before I snapped up enough for a sweater and then ran home to call The Planned One so she could buy yarn too. That yarn lasted for years. Some may still be floating around. That's my favorite distinct Gopher memory but I can still identify with your description of the conflicted pleasure of rooting through dirty Gopher junk in search of a pearl - and I can SOOO remember Mom's reaction when Dad would bring home stuff from Gopher.

    Any other sibs gots memories?

  2. That must have been a huge ass shipment of yarn (or, okay, maybe a different shipment, since I also bought yarn there, a gorgeous blue mohair and a dusky turquoise and magenta twist, when I was probably 15. I still have some as well, and it is some of the most beautiful yarn I have ever owned. I also remember a huge shipment of slightly warped bee's wax church candles. Talk about Catholic moral queasiness. I also bought my first duvet cover there, madras plaid cotton. It was a king, but I sewed it down to fit my queen size down comforter.

    Ah, Gopher.

  3. One of the really attractive things about Gopher was the mere IDEA of so much surplus. We didn't have a lot when we were kids--just enough school clothes to wear for a week, ONE pair of shoes each, one orange a day, one glass of milk per meal...lol...even duct tape was too precious to "waste", and peanut butter "went too fast", so we didn't even buy it...
    But at Gopher, there was (seedy) abundance...and stuff that we could even REJECT. Who would need a cardboard carton of brown and yellow thank-you cards? WHY would anyone buy an Edsel snow globe? A picture frame made of FUR?? Please! It was always good for a laugh...lol
    BUT, you never wanted to go there with limited funds--yes, you could buy gobs of treasure for a dollar, but THAT would be the trip where Goph has Nutella for a buck a jar...lol

  4. Just a couple of weeks ago I had a discussion about 'Wofe' and found it hadn't fatally burned down ten years ago, as I had heard. Or maybe they needed some (more) smoke damaged merchandise to replenish their stock and get insurance money for too. Probably saved their business. Anyway, I had already mourned its loss for some time and now to find a post about it is too cool.

    Well, the Montessori school had countless Gopher 'finds' some of which were so perfect for what I needed it was startling. Phishanne and I used to cruise it for pure devilish joy. However, because we went through lots of glass pitchers, coasters, vases and stuff in the preschool, I always needed something. I always gave everything a smell test, and even the non-smoke damaged stuff might have a scent unless it could be removed. Mom continued to think it was disgusting, but understood I needed lots of breakables. Once I gave her a place setting of dishes I got there (Frishae you have them, delft blue shades on white porcelain) and I got a secret thrill that at last she had let one Gopher treasure into her house. I don't know if I told her where I got it or just kept it as a secret pleasure of my own). I do remember it had the air of the forbidden, and that's why Curly liked it too. He was not going to pass up the deals there, but there was a certain conspiracy you entered just by being excited to go to that stinking, mysterious place.

    Brought back such vivid memories, I have to send Brother Bear to read this post. Love, Kathy

  5. Anonymous2:53 PM

    I work at gopher so its really cool to stumble upon fun stoys like your. thanx for shopping and hope to see you soon!
    Dan P.


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