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Cornucopia of kitsch, collectibles in Salem

Among Harrison's specialties are comic book-inspired action figures. Among Harrison's specialties are comic book-inspired action figures. (Hansi Kalkofen for the boston globe)
By Sacha Pfeiffer
Globe Correspondent / January 25, 2009
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SALEM - In certain circles, there's no question where to go if you're in search of a Jabba the Hutt statue, a "Friday the 13th" Jason mask, a Kellogg's Toucan Sam vinyl figurine, a Batmobile owner's manual, a Ronald McDonald bobblehead toy, a vintage Green Lantern comic book, or a Homer Simpson doll.

The one-stop-shopping destination for all things kitsch is Harrison's Comics and Collectibles, the largest store of its kind on the North Shore. The sprawling 8,000-square-foot shop in downtown Salem offers a selection that spans nearly a century of US popular culture.

Marvel and DC comics. Classic Disney characters like Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. A comic book collection that dates to the 1930s. Hot Wheels, My Little Pony, Transformers, and other toys from the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. Early home video games such as Super Mario Bros. More contemporary movie and television series, including "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Hannah Montana." Pewter and faux crystal dragons. Japanese games, like Pokémon and Manga, with cult followings in the United States. A massive collection of Star Wars paraphernalia.

"We have a little bit of everything that's popular in pop culture," says store owner Larry Harrison, who also has a smaller satellite shop in Medford.

Harrison's sells that "little bit of everything" in nearly every imaginable form, from books to DVDs to toys to movies to T-shirts to posters to key chains to lunch boxes. Its broad, eclectic inventory reflects its customers' seemingly inexhaustible appetite for collecting nearly everything under the sun.

"People collect almost anything: stickers, marbles, magnets, 1950s-1960s cereal stuff, matchbook covers, rocks," Harrison says. "I've had people come in and say, 'What do you have in car stuff? What do you have in clowns?' One guy even asked, 'What do you have in ice cream?' It's almost any genre you can think of."

In the store's basement game room, Harrison's also hosts tournaments for card games such as Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! It sends out a weekly e-newsletter for comic book devotees. And it buys, sells, and trades comics, baseball cards, packaged action figures, toys, and other collectibles.

Harrison thinks the collecting bug is, for many people, rooted in family nostalgia.

"A lot of it goes back to their childhood," Harrison says. "I just think it makes them happy."

He traces his own interest in collectibles to a cousin whose love of comic books rubbed off on him. Harrison remembers reading comics at a drugstore across from his elementary school, and later he started selling them at flea markets and comic book shows.

Harrison's Comics and Collectibles wasn't always the huge emporium it is today. Harrison got his start selling comic books at the Salem Bargain Center, a discount store run by his father.

"He gave me a 6-foot-long table and said, 'You can work for me. I'll give you space for your collectibles and we can go from there,' " Harrison recalls.

Business took off, and Harrison opened a store and his business expanded as customers asked him to carry additional items.

"Whatever got popular, I carried," Harrison says. "People just love collecting."

Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at spfeiff@bu.edu.

If You Go

Harrison's Comics & Collectibles
252 Essex St., Salem

978-741-0786

www.harrisonscomicsltd.com

Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday-Saturday 10-10, Sunday noon-6.

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