• Stephanie Preweda

Disney at a Distance: Local Disney Stores

Since working from home, I’ve been able to sleep in later than usual before getting up and walking down the hall to my home office. During a terrible rainstorm one morning, my phone buzzed way too early for me to be fully functional.


It was my mom.

“What’s wrong? Did the basement flood?!”

My mind naturally went to the negative as the rain kept hammering down on the roof.

“Disney has their twice upon a year sale going on!”

The next thing I knew, we were making plans to visit our local Disney store that weekend.

While online shopping can be convenient, it can’t compete with the experience of being inside a store. After all, you can’t have a girls' day shopping online! There’s something about browsing clothing racks and merchandise shelves, seeing everything lined up in rows looking for the perfect gift item. Not to mention the satisfying feeling of seeing the last Cinderella mug on the shelf and snagging it before it’s gone.

As always I make a beeline for the clearance section near the back corner. Never overlook the clearance section — that’s where some of my best finds come from and of course the best deals. Yes, it’s often out of season but that’s the best part about seasons, they will be back!

After doing one last look through everything in the store, I make my way to the checkout counter, purchase yet another Mickey tote and walk out, bags in hand, feeling satisfied with my purchases.

Growing up we didn’t go to the parks much. My first Walt Disney World trip was at 5 years old and it wasn’t until many years later that I made it a second time. I’ve only been to the theme parks a handful of times and while I’m thankful for those memories, I always wish to be back where the magic is.

Luckily, my local Disney store is there to fill the void.

Going to the Disney store isn’t just about shopping. Shy of booking a trip to the parks, the local store is my next best (and closest) option. Not to mention it takes me back in time to when my mom took me to the store as a kid (okay, she still does). No visit to the mall was complete without popping into the Disney store.

Remember the old school facades? The ones with the film stripes on the top and bottom and window display cases showing off sets that looked like they came straight from ToonTown? Name me another store that can mentally transport you on vacation, bring back memories, put a song in your head, and make your mouth water for a churro just by looking at it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

We all know that Disney is the master of detail, a fact that can be easy to overlook since Disney is also known for being overwhelming. The detail is so incredibly important to the company that even stepping into an individual mall store felt like stepping into a merchandise shop off Main Street. If a store can heighten your senses and make you feel like you’re in a theme park, that’s magical.

I still love everything about going to the Disney store. I always catch myself watching the giant screen playing classic movies as I sing along in my head. I love seeing the rows and rows of stuffed animals all lined up, each one waiting to be picked up.

Through all the magic, I’ve noticed some changes over the years. One, there are fewer and fewer stores. Second, the outside facade (and even the inside) is totally different. There was a time when I could visit any mall in a 30-mile radius from home and have the comfort of knowing that through all the mall chaos the Disney store would be there in all its glory. Music would be piped in, cast members would be wearing their iconic name tags and, best of all, the window displays would depict Mickey and the gang during some new adventure. With all the changes the company has brought over the years, that was always there. My local Disney store. Until it wasn’t.

Like everyone else, Michigan was in a lockdown due to the pandemic and I was getting a bit stir crazy to get out. Once malls slowly started to reopen I took a chance and ventured out to my local Disney store only to find that it had closed. A quick phone call told me that the store was closed for good. Naturally, the first thing I did was call my mom in a panic to share the news. As it stands, I only know of one Disney store left in Michigan. Luckily it’s not too far, only a 30-minute trip.

Today the Disney Store has a modern sleek facade and the unique Mickey and friends window display is replaced with posters of new items for sale and possible discounts that await inside. Not everything has changed though. The giant movie screen still plays the classics while Mickey and the gang were moved from the front window display to a hanging beam from the ceiling near the back. That’s probably my favorite aspect.

Disney, a company known for going green, is also known for recycling props inside their theme parks. I remember the old window display depicting Goofy playing the piano. He looked to be seated on the beam, hands at the ready as if to tickle the ivory while Mickey, Daisy, and Donald appear to be dancing. I don’t think that’s just a coincidence but yet another way example of Disney recycling and reusing props to keep the magic alive.

Although it’s not the same, it’s still my local Disney Store and it still holds all my childhood memories. No amount of redecorating can replace that.

It’s the closest thing I have to visiting Walt’s theme park and while I expect more changes to come, I sincerely hope the Disney store never goes away.

What memories do you have from your local Disney store? I’d love to hear from YOU and how you Disney at a Distance! Until then TTFN, ta ta for now!

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