The average person’s life consists of a lot of shopping: roaming the aisles of stores for groceries, clothes, appliances and furniture, and repeatedly doling out money.
But the city would be too boring if all the stores in it were just for basic necessities. And if any one store could counteract the everyday shopping experience, it’s the Echo Park Time Travel Mart.
Among clustered city streets lies this quirky gem, which greets you with the phrase “Whenever you are, we’re already then” printed on its storefront; there’s also a giant robot interacting with a caveman on display behind the store’s giant windows.
There’s a deceiving air of familiarity when you enter the mart. You see the usual signs hanging overhead, describing each aisle’s contents. The prices are marked, the names clear to read.
But there’s something very different about the store — upon closer inspection, the shelves are filled with rare treasures.
Where could you possibly purchase a bottle of Professor Clutterbuck’s Elixir of Eternal Life? Or a legitimate piece of chainmail? Or pins with the faces of your favorite dead authors?
As if the kooky items weren’t enough, the store also features a humor all its own. The “Time-Freezy Hyper Slush” machine has a piece of paper taped to it that reads “Out of order — come back yesterday.” The mart also includes refrigerators that look ordinary, except for what hides inside: One case has a sign that reads “Fresh! Dinosaur eggs.” Inside are large spotted eggs, one of which is cracked with a tiny dinosaur peeking out from inside.
Another similar area, labeled “specialties,” houses a variety of unique reads, while another holds bottles labeled “anti-robot fluid,” which looks suspiciously like water.
If you ever despaired about not being able to possess your own robot, you need not grieve any longer. The stores let you “adopt” a robot, small creations with names like Sparklz and Spinney, that cost less than $20.
The store also supplies things like an evil-robot memory eraser — a small device meant to help with any robot gone rogue — and a decent supply of “robot emotions,” USBs meant to inject your robot with emotions like boredom and guilt. It’s a dream come true for any robot fanatic.
Though the store carries semi-normal goods, some household items get their own twist: If you want to try to time travel, the store carries “time-travel sickness pills” complete with specific dosages on the label, just like any other common medicine.
If it’s all too overwhelming and you can’t choose what to buy, the store offers surprise bags, which come in two sizes and hold various items from the store.
Besides offering a good laugh and some rare items to shoppers who swing by, the store also houses and supports 826LA, a non-profit writing and tutoring center that provides students with help when it comes to reading and writing everything from essays to fiction.
The center is part of 826 National, a program that was formed in San Francisco in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari, and the mart has a room in which tutoring sessions take place.
When you walk up to pay for your goods, you can browse through books containing work from the students in 826LA, as well as information for volunteering or internship involvement.
The back of the Echo Park Time Travel Mart separates the tutoring center from the store with a plastic curtain, creating a separate but united feeling between the unique store and the program. The locale also houses workshops tailored to certain age groups and each is constructed around a specific theme.
The mart’s connection to a supportive, enriching organization makes it even more of a hidden gem. Even if you don’t purchase anything, just walking around the store is highly entertaining, more so than any trip to your local mall or grocery store.
Turns out shopping doesn’t have to be so dull and predictable — and time travel doesn’t require a time machine, after all.
Echo Park Time Travel Mart is located on 1714 W. Sunset Blvd.
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Eva Recinos is a junior majoring in English. Her column “Nook & Cranny” runs Mondays.