Friday, November 18, 2016

Has Hammacher Schlemmer got a Christmas gift idea for you

When I was a kid, I thought that being part of a Christmas Club was just the coolest thing. Imagine: you put $2 a week away for 50 weeks, and you’d have $100 to spend, come Christmas. Not that I had $2 a week to put away – not when my kiddie allowance was 25 cents, of which I had to put a dime in my church envelope. But I always wanted to belong to a Christmas Club, and couldn’t understand why my parents thought it was a stupid idea to put money in the bank that earned less than you would on your regular passbook account, and that you couldn’t access during the year if you needed it.

Fast forward a half-century plus, and I see that, if I had assiduously been squirreling away $135K a week for the past 50 weeks, I’d now have enough to purchase the 23 Acre Wild West Town Amusement Park that’s up for grabs – right there on page 6 of the H-S catalogue – for $7 million dollars.

Donley’s Wild West Town includes 14 buildings with two residences, offices, a warehouse, museum, restaurant, convention hall, and a commercial kitchen.

Plus a kiddie railway, a slingshot range, and “a host of rascals that perform a daily cowboy show.”

Alas, “live actors not included.”

Goldarn it. I was Donley's wild westlooking for something to occupy me in my old age, and finding a rascal cowboy might have done the trick. Dang nabbit.

I’m a-wonderin’ what the revenues of this outfit are that would justify the $7M price tag. Hard to believe this sort of place, which is only open a few months a year, is worth $7M based on what it brings in.

Union, Illinois, where Donley’s is located, is a fur piece from Chicago, but maybe the suburbs of the suburbs have extended far enough north that the land is ripe for development.

Anyway, way back in 2003, the owners put the town up for sale on eBay, but the high bid was only about $2M, which the Donley Brothers thought was way too low. And it’s been off and on the commercial real estate market pretty regularly since then.

Wonder what’s holding things up. After all, on Trip Advisor, it’s rated the second best thing to do in Union, Illinois (population 567). The best thing to do in Union is the Illinois Railway Museum. (Just out of curiosity, I looked up Boston, and the second best thing to do is go to the Museum of Fine Arts. The best thing is Fenway Park.)

For whatever reason, the Donley Boys – sounds like an old-timey gang of outlaws, don’t they: the Clanton Brothers, the James Boys – have been having a difficult time cashing out. So now they’re taking the H-S catalogue route.

Of course, there are plenty of other less costly but eBeaniequally distracting things on offer by H-S. Who knew there was such a thing as The Bearded Beanie? Only $39.95. One size fits most. (I could go on, but I may need to devote a full post to the goofiness that is Hammacher Schlemmer.)

But what’s really caught my eye is the Wild West Town.

If only I’d been socking that $135K a week away in my Christmas Club…

You are no doubt asking why a Bostonian would want to purchase a roadside attraction way out west in Illinois.

Mostly because I have a very capable couple in mind who, in their retirement, might just be willing to commute up to Union from Naperville to run it. Him: business experience as a banker; her: kid experience as a teacher. Seasonal work, so they could still get to Florida. Their grandkids have probably outgrown this sort of fun, but still…

So, Ellen and Mike, let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll see whether there’s enough in my Christmas Club equivalent to make a down payment.

Yippee kay-ay-o!

1 comment:

Ellen said...

Gee, Mo, this is so tempting! You can save your Christmas Club funds, though. We're taking a pass. Now if it were the Cartwright Boys, maybe I'd be interested.