I began this article simply intending to discuss the existence of a chain of Northwestern sporting goods stores that were surprisingly named, “GIjOE’s.” But any simple story about their intriguing name choice quickly gave way to more fanciful imaginings of what an actual GIjOE store could-would-should be like…
FANTASY: Imagine if you will, attending the grand opening of an all-new “GIjOE” Store…
The store’s huge letters beckon shoppers from almost a mile away. You and a friend park your car and hurredly approach the front of the store. As you draw closer, two large metallic doors, adorned with a giant, 3-dimensional Adventure Team logo, glide silently apart. When fully opened, the massive logo doors come to a sudden stop with a gentle “hiss,” and a booming voice ushers you inside, announcing… “Remember: Only GIjOE…is GIjOE!”
You eagerly step forward as the store’s cool air-conditioning wafts over you, and the first thing you notice is that instantly recognizable, “new GIjOE” smell. The scent triggers something almost primal in your mind as childhood memories of Christmas’ Past suddenly come flooding back. Your heart begins to race. Your eyes grow wide as saucers. Dazed, you stop just inside the door to “take it all in,” astonished at what you behold.
This building is filled to the rafters with 1:6 scale-related merchandise. The shelves stretch far off into the distance, and are loaded with all-new action figures from manufacturers around the world. Moving closer to examine one, you notice that each figure comes with a super-articulated body and interchangeable hands. “Great idea!” you think to yourself. “Imagine all the possibilities.”
Turning around, you’re astounded to discover racks upon racks of well-detailed and intriguing equipment sets for every branch of service. There’s something for every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and Adventurer in your ranks. The set’s are sold on brightly colored peg cards or vintage-style window boxes. Their retro-packaging allows you to see everything clearly through just a thin piece of cellophane. Amazed by the huge variety of 1:6 scale accessories hanging before you, you suddenly blurt out, “Now THIS is how to sell GijOEs!”
You start proselytizing to your friend…”Okay, I buy a Joe, right? Then I’ll want to buy a uniform set. Then a weapon or equipment accessory set. Finally, I’ll dress the figure and detail it all up. Then I’ll want to do it all over again with another figure. This hobby can become so ADDICTIVE! The whole razors-n-blades marketing idea makes so much sense to me now!”
Towards the back of the store, your jaw drops open again as you discover rows and rows of shiny new 1:6 scale vehicles. There are all types of cars, trucks, jeeps, tanks, boats and aircraft. Each is shown in its own neat and orderly display cube with bold GIjOE logos and text detailing its particular features and history.
Some are electric and fully R/C, while others simply require a little push to move along. And when you realize they’re all designed to quickly break down and fit into much smaller boxes, you realize that storage issues are no longer such a problem. Your friend exclaims, “This GIjOE store makes so much sense! Why hasn’t anyone sold ’em like this before?”
REALITY: The end has come for one (formerly) successful sporting goods chain.
Sadly, of course, all of the above are merely fanciful imaginings that had flashed through my mind when I first stumbled across the existence of a real chain of stores called, “GIjOE’s. Their reality turns out to be far less inspiring. And in an edited nutshell, Wikipedia recounts the demise of GIjOE’s stores thusly…
“G.I. Joe’s began in 1952 when Edward Orkney purchased army surplus sleeping bags and then set up a tent in Portland, Oregon, to sell them to the public. Orkney sold out of the sleeping bags and then started selling other army surplus merchandise from a store that then doubled in size by 1956.
By 2000, revenue had increased to $161 million from 17 stores, making G.I. Joe’s the 12th largest sporting goods retailer in the United States, and the largest in the Pacific Northwest.
On March 4, 2009, the chain filed for Chapter 11. Some former managers attempted to re-start G.I. Joe’s in six former stores located in Bend, Salem, Eugene, and three in the Portland area, but the plan fell apart in July 2009.”
It’s regrettable that the real GIjOE’s stores are no more. If there are any remaining, they’re likely to be small, independently run concerns, struggling to stay afloat in a tough economy. If you know of any in your area, please leave a comment about it here on The Joe Report. Thanks!