My birthday’s coming!
No presents, please. But if you must, I like anything from P.S. I Love You.
Oh, sorry, scratch that. The store, which was near our house on the Upper West Side, no longer exists, and I’m no longer 12. But if this were 1981…
You could buy me anything from P.S. I Love You and I’d be happy.
If you google P.S. I Love You, all you’ll find is some crappy movie with Hillary Swank. The only evidence I have of its existence is a sticker my mom saved on a box, in a storage room that also houses my old Mad Magazines and the game I got for my 6th birthday, Gnip Gnop.
So. P.S. I Love You was a tiny store that sold things for tweens before they were called tweens, and encapsulated the look of the early 1980s before we were aware there was a look to the early 1980s.
If you don’t know what that look was, the primary visual assets were: satin, puffy, rainbow, glossy, hearts, lips, and unicorns.
Unicorns were not a punchline about everyone getting along and being self-actualized. They were GODS.
Rainbows had no sexual identity. They were a style enhancer. No rainbow was too much rainbow. You could put a rainbow pin or sticker on anything: your notebook, your sneakers, your Jordache denim jacket, your shiny Le Sportsac, your rainbow suspenders.
And then there were all things lips.
Can we discuss lips? In the early 80s, they were everywhere. Pins shaped like lips. Stickers of lips. Lip shoelaces. Giant satin lip pillows. If you were super-cool, and your parents didn’t care about wasting electricity, you had a neon sign in your bedroom of lips. Or, even better, lips drinking from a straw. Lips, lips, lips. It seems like a random thing to make iconic. Why not fingers?
Whatever the hopes and dreams we invested in lips and other arbitrary image fetishes, P.S. I Love You cashed in.
Shoelaces covered in hearts, stars, ice cream cones, rainbow ice cream cones, party hats, strawberries, cherries, rubiks cubes, smiley faces. If it’s now an emoticon, you could once buy it on a shoelace from P.S. I Love You.
Puffy pins. Ceramic pins. Stickers, stickers, stickers, on spools.
Nothing represented the concept of “abundance” to me better than a spool of ice cream cone stickers, which always looked infinite. No way did they ever run out of those ice cream stickers. That spool was forever.
Soft sculpture dolls.
I had a satin, soft-sulpture unicorn from P.S. I Love You hanging over my bed. It had a glorious mien of pastel rainbow silk strings.
And, of course, ribbon barrettes (see pic below) and ribbon barrette fixin’s so you could make your own, or make them for your best friend, or for your fake best friend. I made my own for my very, very best friend: me. (6th grade was a tough year.)
When everyone had their bat mitzvahs, one girl in my Hebrew School class would always neglect to bring a present, and tell you, “A P.S. I Love You gift certificate is in the mail!” I don’t have to tell you, it never was.
Now when someone tells me they got me a present but didn’t bring it, I know I’ve been “P.S. I Love You’d.”
What store from your childhood do you miss? I’ve asked that before, but I love hearing it.
Or, if you were turning 10, 11, or 12, what could we get you for your birthday?
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.
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I worked at P. S. I Love You on Madison Avenue. It was truly a great experience for me. I got to design the windows, make “Camp Care” packages, help the kids and parents pick out birthday gifts… It was crazy what the kids bought. The biggest all time sellers: Dancing Flowers, Snap Bracelets, stickers and sticker albums, anything Lisa Frank, Swatches. AND we would do free gift wrapping while you waited. Famous customers: Jackie O, Robin Williams, Sissy Spacek, Linda Lavin. The owner was such a great person! He really cared about the staff, customers, and the business. I’m glad that we were part of bringing some happiness to little lives.
Yes, Gary was so nice. I bought lots. Wish we had this store still I would buy for my grandchildren.
I am wearing a t shirt I still have from ps I love you today and was inspired to find out if anyone else had such fond memories of that little shop. Thank you for sharing!
My sister and I were obsessed with this store in the late 80s/early 90s. We went after school and it was like a treasure trove/ sticker paradise. I still remember the smell haha. I just searched for Oilie stickers and they cost like 100 bucks now because they were banned or something lame😒 the sticker business isn’t what it used to be I guess so sad, does anyone have any pics of it or anything?
alison Dalewitz says
Chocolate soup, and this store on Madison bt 86/7 th street ( secret garden ?). There was also a great store like ps I love u on lex bt 73/4 can’t recall the name — ice studio ❤️ Omg sweet victory-
Laura Belgray says
I’m a west side girl, so didn’t know the one on Lex. But Chocolate Soup, we all knew because of the Danish School Bags.
Mia McDonald says
Remember Think Big! On West Broadway? …6-foot pencils and other enlargements of things. Never bought anything in there but lots of looking around. Always thought it was so bizarre but couldn’t get enough of it lol. Also, in Phoenix AZ there was an uber glam, elegant “dept store” called I. Magnin in the Biltmore Fashion Park. Lots of time spent wandering in there and soaking it in. Gone now but have such vivid memories of it, the architecture, the chrome and glass cases, and the smell!
I can’t belive I found this awesome post today. I was Googling Butterfly Greenwich Village. In the early/mid 80s, I had or wanted all this – satin pillows in shapes (lips, hearts) decorated with glitter for Sweet 16s, printed shoelaces, Jordache (fought my mom like crazy to splurge and eventually my dad snuck me money to get them), LeSportSac, Lipsmackers – it’s all crashing back. Thank you thank you for the trip down memory lane. Do you remember exactly where Butterfly was?
I worked at the P.S. I Love You gift shop on Madison Ave and 89th during the mid 80’s. & I agree, it was an adorable store & such fun working there! Loved our customers😊
Wow! Do you have any pics? Thank you for helping to make it the coolest store ever.. it was just indescribably amaaazing and I wish it was still around!
I also loved that store! Thanks for the memories!!
This store sounds almost identical to SWAK on Central Ave in London, Ontario. Every Saturday I would spend hours and most of my babysitting money on pink and purple stationary I never used, fancy erasers, and many many stickers for my extensive collection (the scratch and sniff skunk was my fave). My whole room was rainbow, rainbow wallpaper, rainbow bedspread, I had puffy balloons hanging from the ceiling and my window blind was a blue sky with clouds.
I so remember the scratch ‘n’ sniff skunk scent. It was more like burnt rubber. And pizza smelled like pepperoni, not the actual pizza.These things need work. Man, I covet your bedroom.
I had a satin lips pillow on my bed. I hated it. My face slid off when I tried to use it before I realized it was meant to be purely decorative. Someone gave it to me (probably purchased at P.S. I love you) and I felt guilty re-gifting it or throwing it away. Plus every time someone my age came over they’d comment on it. “Cool pillow!” They never said, “Cool batik elephant from Thailand!”
For my 12th birthday, I would have liked a round sisal tote with soft leather handles to use as a book bag.
That, or a sibling.
How about a sibling in a bag? I never wanted one of those straw totes. Too itchy. But all the cool girls had them.
Dr. David C Belgray says
Then there was the candy store from Nelson Ave., on Boscobel Ave., now Edward L Grant Hwy.
Louie Morelli and I went there one day, and he showed me his source of candy: reaching around the end of the candy case, and into a plethora of candy, then pulling out as many as he could hold.
I wasn’t old enough to speak up about it, but I knew it was wrong, although I think I enjoyed the mischief for the moment. Later on, he was accused of killing someone. Ugh!
My favorite sentence of all time is, “Later on, he was accused of killing someone. Ugh!”
Oh, you just made me remember my pink satin baseball jacket I got when I was 11. Just like the one Sean Cassidy wore. Sigh. It meant so much to me and my best friend had one in baby blue. I wore mine with pink hang ten shorts and a white angora beret. I am not kidding when I tell you it was the apex of my style confidence. I rocked it when I was a pre-teen!
It’s ALL about the beret. I’m impressed by that outfit.
We had a place called Mariposa where I got all my heart/rainbow/unicorn puffy stickers for my sticker collection as well as Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers. Also, ribbons for my barettes. Which I pronounced bar-ettes instead of ba-rettes, which my friends laughed at but I never changed. Anyway, it was mecca. Don’t forget those rainbow shirts. My mother bought me one that didn’t curve down the arms, just went straight across. Still stings to think about.
Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers. You know what was the best one? 7-Up. “Mariposa” is not enough of a love-, kiss-, or lip-centric store name. Revise, please.
Nancy K says
Mariposa was synonymous with Xanadu for me…so the name had a magical unicorn quality to it. We also had a place called Notes ‘n Quotes but it wasn’t as good.
Oh these are so good — I remember buying Courtney Carrera the “lips jewelry box” for her b’day in 6th grade.
That seems like a perfect 6th grade b’day present for Courtney Carrera. And I can totally picture that jewelry box.
Oh god. I found a picture of myself with two giant ponytail braids on the sides of my head with orange and pink hair extensions weaved in and clear glass ball hair ties at both the top and bottom. Oof.
The worst thing about it? I was 13. That’s a little too old for coordinating hair extensions and accessories, isn’t it? Oh, didn’t mention that? I had orange and pink ribbons around my wrists. I had a blue and turquoise get up, too, don’t worry.
In short, anything orange and shiny or (upgrade!) orange, shiny, AND furry would have thrilled me on my birthday. I don’t know where I found this stuff. Probably Claire’s or Delia’s, but those still exist! They’re just stocked with plaid and faux leather now.
I had those same hair ties. We called them “doo-dads.” Which auto-correct just changed 3 times to foo-dads. How is that more of a word? How?
In 1981 I was also 12. I was living in Northern California. We would take day trips to San Francisco and there was this store on Pier 39 that was all rainbows and unicorns. And no, it wasn’t a metaphysical LGBT store.
This store was all of my dreams packed tightly in an 800 sq. ft. space. I’ve never done hallucinogens, but I would imagine that they look and feel somewhat like this store. The store would probably totally creep me out today, but in 1981 it was everything I wanted from a cheesy tourist shop.
If we were friends back then, I would have called you, on my lip-shaped phone, and asked if you wanted to come with me to share in the magic. Because, it was. Magical.
Cue music: Barbara and Neil, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”
You know how you don’t like it when no one comments on your blogs? I don’t like it when you don’t reply to them. It makes me feel lonely. And insecure. It’s been a few days Laura. Your husband and his birthday should come second to your groupies.
Patience, kitten. You know when I was about to reply to them all? When I had my ankle incident. My catchup day is coming. (Not to be confused w catsup or ketchup.)
I feel loved now.
Your blog is the only one I read regularly. All others have gotten filtered into spam, so that should make you feel special and me look pathetic all at the same time. And I’m ok with that.
Holy shit balls! You weren’t kidding. You did play catch up. You even replied to the replies. I don’t know what to say. I’d say something witty, only I’ve had too much wine, so my brain isn’t functioning. What happened to a nice buzz? I just get sleepy these days…
How did my blog get past the spam filters? I try so hard to make it dirty!
I like that about you.
Did you have the lip-shaped phone, for real? Now I’m jealous.
I’d come with you.
Yes, 50% of what I say is bullshit, but that my friend is fo’ real.
Barton’s was my neighborhood candy store when I was growing up in Elmhurst, Queens. There was also another candy store a few blocks further away, that was called Stage. Both sold candy, comic books, Mad magazines, and baseball cards; all essential kid items. But, most significantly, both also had a rack of cut-out albums.
As this is a concept that might not be familiar to some readers, cut-out albums (or LPs) were the equivalent of remaindered books (that you find in the discount racks of Barnes & Noble stores). If record stores couldn’t sell the shipment of albums they ordered, they would send them back to the record label for a refund. The record label would then punch a small hole in the upper right hand corner of the album, or cut a notch out of the lower part of the spine of the album, and send them to any discount retailer that wanted to unload them at a fraction of their original list price.
And so it was at Barton’s and/or Stage that my older brother picked up a pair of early Frank Zappa albums, “Absolutely Free” and “Lumpy Gravy” for $1.99 each in 1970. I’m not sure whether someone he knew informed him about Zappa or whether he figured it was a small amount to gamble on something that looked interesting. But thanks to those candy stores I got my first exposure to some incredibly bizarre, off beat, often incomprehensible yet often very catchy music, and I soon became a lifelong devotee.
The interesting thing about cut-outs in that era was that often the albums that were remaindered in this fashion were actually going out of print. Records that were selling for two bucks at these discounters would two years later be sold in collectors shops for ten to thirty times that amount. That was certainly the case with “Lumpy Gravy.” (If only I had realized that at the time).
The other interesting thing to note is that in the ’70s there were no super stores in the New York area like Tower Records. While certain elite neighborhoods might have shops devoted solely to recorded music, (in Manhattan Sam Goody’s original location on the east side was monumental), a lot of people bought their music in large department stores, like Alexander’s and Korvettes, and smaller stores that were perhaps more devoted to housewares than music.
I was just thinking about how there were no super stores. And no “mom and pop” shops either, because they all were. No need to say it.
Did that Barton’s have their own candy — caramel cluster turtles? Or is that Brach’s I’m thinking of?
They sold mostly commercial candy but I vaguely remember them having their own brand on items too but I could be wrong. Brach’s was definitely a big brand that was sold in many locations.
I LOVED P.S I Love You! I also loved POSTER MAT on 8th street! I went there every. single. weekend. And then there was Paper House (but not the janky one on 72nd street that’s there now!) and Canal Jean and Flip NY and Unique (the pins…the pins!) I pretty much ONLY had bday parties so people could get me gifts that my parents never would – barrettes with my name and balloons on them, barrettes with rainbow wooden beads on them, mobiles (oh how I coveted mobiles), personalized puffy paint sweat shirts, and even ceramic whistles painted with hearts…sigh. I craved whimsy and my parents were so practical. I still won’t use any of my stickers…they’re anally preserved in an album with my name all over it. Abby. Abby. Abby.
I’m so jealous they made products with your name. I had to settle for Lauren or Laurie if I wanted any of that stuff.
My downtown route started at Canal, then Antique Boutique, then Unique, Butterfly, Postermat, Andies Cheepees, Reminiscence, Flip, then get my bearings and figure out once again where to get the bus somewhere around Waverly, back to the UWS. I may be mis-remembering where Unique was.
Unique was on 726 Broadway cross street Waverly Place. Good memories.
I really miss the Miller’s department store in downtown Knoxville, TN. The store sat on one side of Henley Street and a parking garage sat on the far side of this 4 lane thoroughfare. The two were connected by an underground tunnel (is there another kind?) which was a truly awesome and magical kingdom, especially at Christmas time when the tunnel was populated by Santa Claus, elves and tons of lights and overwhelming 1950’s Christmas decor. The building is still there but is now a part of the University of Tennessee; I actually worked in an office there for most of the 90’s. But the garage is gone and the tunnel, if it still exists, leads nowhere and the magic is gone now except in my dreams – I want it back.
There is a different kind of tunnel: the kind a hamster uses, or the giant hamster-like one a kid crawls through. Maybe that’s just a tube, not a tunnel.
I’m scared of a tunnel that’s “populated” by anyone. No good people populate a tunnel, not even if they’re Santa. I think your magical kingdom might’ve been full of jolly perverts and bums? Or is that messing up the magic?
OMG, Now I’ve got something new to worry about – tunnels infested with perverted Santas. My childhood innocence is totally shot and it’s going to take a bottle of Valium to sleep tonight. Thanks, Laura.