Through McSweeney’s, a pointer to The Boring Store in Chicago (1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.), with a wonderful website. Part of the store’s sign:
Ironic reversal, attraction by denial: “the only store in Chicago that denies its own existence”. The store bills itself in one place, positively, as “Chicago’s only Secret Agency Supply Store” (it actually sells disguise kits, X-ray specs, and other spy gear for kids) and in another, negatively, as “Not a Clandestine Supplier of Espionagical Wares”.
[Espionagical, a playful derivative of espionage, appears in places other than the Boring Store's literature, for instance here:
March 01, 2010 — Charlotte Gainsbourg "Heaven Can Wait" from Beck Hansen on Vimeo . Imagine a James Bond movie populated not with spies and sexpots but indie kids and dirty ashtrays. All the inherent espionagical cool is still intact, but there's a vague, coffeehouse disinterest in...
but the Boring Store appears to be its primary home.]
[Note also the rhyming play: Boring Store, Flooring Store, Dooring Store, Mooring Store, and Goring Store (definitely my favorite).]
All this is aimed at kids; the idea is to attract kids to the site, which also houses 826CHI, a branch of 826 National. From the Wikipedia entry:
826 National is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students, ages 6–18, with expository and creative writing at eight locations across the USA. The chapters include 826 Valencia in San Francisco, 826NYC in Brooklyn, New York, 826LA in Los Angeles, CA, 826CHI in Chicago, 826 Seattle, 826michigan in Ann Arbor, 826 Boston in Boston, and 826DC in Washington, DC (formerly the Capitol Letters Writing Center). The 826 National mission is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. Each 826 chapter provides drop-in tutoring, class field trips, writing workshops, and in-schools programs—all free of charge. 826 chapters are especially committed to supporting teachers, publishing student work, and offering services for English language learners.
826CHI passes the word:
Psst! 826CHI shares its space with the Boring Store, Chicago’s only undercover secret agent supply store. The Boring Store outfits its spy-entele [note playful portmanteau] with the latest and greatest in espionagical wares. All funds raised through sales in the store go to support 826CHI’s free programming.
The Boring Store’s brick and mortar shop is certainly the place to visit if you’re in desperate need of a grappling hook, a book to read on a long stake out, messenger pigeon feed, or a t-shirt. We encourage you to – at your stealthiest – sneak on over here.
Some other 826 National chapters have other connections. The San Francisco branch, for instance, doubles as a pirate supply store (David Byrne: “Definitely one of the top five pirate stores I’ve been to recently”).
What a wonderful idea, linking cool kid stuff to tutoring in writing, and using the first to support the second. (And the stores sell books written by kids in the program.)