10 Fictional Stores We Wish Were Real


Sometimes, we get a little too wrapped up in the books we’re reading and the TV shows and movies we’re watching. We form allegiances to characters, we begin to know their hangouts as well as they do… and sometimes we even start to envy the stores where they work or shop. Inspired by our yearly fall hunt for sweaters, coats, boots — and, okay, some totally non-seasonal items because shopping always seems to beget more shopping — we bring you 10 fictional stores we seriously wish were real.

Empire Records

Of course this was going to be first on our list. A giant, independent record store with a super-chill manager and a staff of pretty young things who spend all day debating fine points of music history and making bad art? Who laugh in the face of the cheesy pop has-been who’s there to sign records? Who save their store from becoming but a link in a Tower Records-style chain by hosting a crazy party that involves some staffers performing a rock show on the roof? We want this store to exist now as much as we did in the mid-’90s, and we refused to be ashamed about it.

The Magic Box, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

We may not be goths, and our interest in practicing the dark arts may be limited, but we would frequent just about any store that has Rupert Giles as a proprietor. It may also be the only magic store in the history of the world that offers frequent, free, and totally terrifying demonstrations of its wares in action.

Prairie Fire Books, Eat the Document

In Dana Spiotta’s book-length comment on lefty politics and its discontents, which spans the years 1972 to 1998, we meet Nash, who manages a radical bookstore in Seattle. While we’d be happy just to peruse his mildewed, left-of-center finds, drink the Coke that his anti-corporate employees scold him for stocking, and save some cash as he negotiates his own prices down, the real draw would be the 100% fake activist groups whose meetings Nash hosts at the store in the evenings.

Grace Brothers, Are You Being Served?

Everyone knows a great department store is more about the service than the selection — and thank God for that, as we don’t know many people under 70 who would be interested in buying what Grace Brothers is selling, clothing that was already unfashionable in 1972, when the long-running series debuted. Instead, we would frequent the shop for its odd staff — including a proper old lady who’s always talking about her “pussy” (cat, that is) to the womanizing Mr. Lucas to poor, closeted Mr. Humphries — and their amusing repartée.

Bill’s Candy Shop, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

What ever happened to good, old-fashioned neighborhood candy stores? These days, it seems we’re stuck with either stale deli confections or have to pay top dollar at high-end chocolate boutiques. In our cynical times, we might snicker at a grown man who spends his days singing to children about candy. But come on: This is store and its proprietor are utterly awesome, and we see that soda fountain in our dreams.

Now Wear This, Beverly Hills 90210

Donna Martin may not have been the sharpest pencil in Beverly Hills’s diamond-studded box, she found her niche as the designer of Donna Martin Originals. When business really started to take off, she and Kelly teamed up to open a boutique with a terrible name. The exposed brick wall was a nice touch, and the clothing actually looked decent, in a late-’90s kind of way. We never saw much commerce taking place, but Now Wear This was still the best place in the Los Angeles area to catch an earful of gossip. What we wouldn’t have given, back in the day, to hide out in the dressing room and listen to Donna and Kelly dish.

TRAX, Pretty in Pink

We liked Molly Ringwald’s Pretty in Pink protagonist Andie just fine, but we sure wish she had avoided all that prom-night drama by sticking around at TRAX, to hang out with the store’s awesome manager. Better yet, we wish the Chicago New Wave record emporium actually existed and that we could go there and befriend Iona (played by the wonderful Annie Potts) ourselves.

The Android’s Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop, The Simpsons

We know what you’re thinking: Why would we ever want TV’s most notorious elitist nerd emporium to actually exist in real life? Our reasoning is that stores like this exist everywhere around the country, but not one of them has a proprietor half as hilarious as the Comic Book Guy. We would patronize this shop just to hear him rant. Funniest. Geek. Ever.

Mulberry’s florist, Mrs. Dalloway

In most major cities, you can buy flowers at just about any corner deli. But we’ve still never been in a flower shop quite like the one Virginia Woolf describes in the opening scene of Mrs. Dalloway:

“There were flowers: delphiniums, sweet peas, bunches of lilac; and carnations, masses of carnations. There were roses; there were irises. Ah yes — so she breathed in the earthy garden sweet smell as she stood talking to Miss Pym who owed her help, and thought her kind, for kind she had been years ago; very kind, but she looked older, this year, turning her head from side to side among the irises and roses and nodding tufts of lilac with her eyes half closed, snuffing in, after the street uproar, the delicious scent, the exquisite coolness. And then, opening her eyes, how fresh like frilled linen clean from a laundry laid in wicker trays the roses looked; and dark and prim the red carnations, holding their heads up; and all the sweet peas spreading in their bowls, tinged violet, snow white, pale — as if it were the evening and girls in muslin frocks came out to pick sweet peas and roses after the superb summer’s day, with its almost blue-black sky, its delphiniums, its carnations, its arum lilies was over; and it was the moment between six and seven when every flower — roses, carnations, irises, lilac — glows; white, violet, red, deep orange; every flower seems to burn by itself, softly, purely in the misty beds; and how she loved the grey-white moths spinning in and out, over the cherry pie, over the evening primroses!”

Buy the Book, Ellen

Before we knew Ellen DeGeneres was gay, and before she had a massively successful daytime talk show, she was just a simple bookseller on her sitcom, Ellen. First she worked at fictional Los Angeles shop Buy the Book, and then she bought it. We always wished we could browse that sprawling, independent bookstore, with its wood trim and homey windows. And we would never pass up the chance to sip a giant latte and trade quips with Joe, Ellen’s caustic coffee guy.