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Sophomore Hallie Galvin bought a brass knuckles mug from Cool Stuff, 808 E. Broadway, for her mother a few months ago. Now Galvin said it’s a little more precious to her because the iconic store on Broadway is closing.
Housewives everywhere are tucking away their ninja breadmen for safekeeping, and the many owners of squirrel underpants are putting the tiny briefs at the back of their drawers as Cool Stuff shuts its doors this April.
Hearing about the end, Galvin was baffled because of its previous advertising ploys.
“I’ve seen them do that before, but it was just a gimmick to sell more things,” Galvin said. “I was also confused because I know most of the workers there, and none of them told me. [It] has so much business; I don’t know why they’re taking it down.”
When people heard about the closing they believed Arnie Fagan, owner of Cool Stuff, was pulling a wild marketing stunt. About seven years ago Fagan thought about selling the building and prepared to close.
He put an ad in the local paper that, according to Fagan, if not read correctly, could mislead customers into believing there was a sale. The deal to sell Cool Stuff fell through when the buyer bowed out.
So this time around, when Fagan announced the closing in a mass email, people disregarded it. Faithful consumers waited for Fagan to sling off the Lucha Libra mask and yell, “Just kidding!” But Fagan said that this was indeed the end.
“I looked at the course of my life and what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished. And my goal early on was to create the coolest store in the world,” Fagan said. “I’ve spent 23 years on this store, and that is no longer my goal. I’ve achieved it. I’ve achieved it many times.”
Fagan does not want to sell Cool Stuff to another owner. He feels a bad new owner could ruin his legacy, especially if the owner didn’t care about customers the way he and his hand-picked workers do now.
Some Columbians speculate that another store will fill the soon-to-be empty place.
“I think it’s honestly one of [Columbia’s] most original stores,” Galvin said. “And now I heard they’re putting in a sports clothing store there. We have enough of those and only one Cool Stuff.”
Fagan said there is a plan for the place but is not willing to reveal it just yet.
Regardless of the change, though, Fagan said its closing is a huge loss for Columbia. It played a big role in making The District what it is today: inclusive and hip, rather than what it used to be — an exclusive shopping place. Fagan hoped to open downtown to all; he nicknamed his group “the cools.”
“In 1990 [Cool Stuff] moved to [its] second location on Ninth Street, and 1990 kicked off the renaissance, the revitalization [and] the cooling of downtown,” Fagan said. “The battle was on the grumps versus the cools. And I was the self-proclaimed leader of the cools.”
Just as Cool Stuff indicated a shift before, it does so again. In the 1990s the store changed Columbia from a sleepy retired folk’s town to a booming college kid zone. Fagan believes with the store closing, the town will see a substantial change from an idyllic small Midwestern college town to a city.
Fagan’s life, too, is changing. He’ll have lots of open hours for new adventures.
“I’m not a one trick pony,” Fagan said. “My best accomplishments and my best days are still ahead of me.”
By Maria kalaitzandonakes