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The Emporium - Magic Kingdom

Jack Spence Masthead


In ancient Greece, the term “emporion” (plural “emporia”) represented a portion of land set up by one nation, within the borders of another, to sell and trade their goods. The Greeks established numerous emporia in Egypt and other North African locales.

In medieval Europe, the term “emporium” (plural “emporia”) referred to trading settlements usually found on the shores of North-Western European seas and the Atlantic Ocean. These settlements lacked any real infrastructure or government. This marketplace arrangement lasted until about the year 1000 when structured towns and cities took their place.

In both cases, a large variety of goods and merchandise were traded at the emporia. The word “emporium” survived over the centuries and had a resurgence during the Victorian era. The term was used to describe a large retail store that offered a vast selection of commodities and goods.

On Main Street U.S.A., Osium "Osh" Popham built one of the first structures along this thoroughfare and opened his Arcade in 1863. The store wasn't particularly large, but it exuded elegance and charm. He also believed that the recently installed tracks and horse-drawn trolley would bring customers directly to his doorsteps.


Osium

Horse-drawn Trolley


Osh was correct and both country and townsfolk soon found their way to his establishment. Entering the store, his patrons encountered an octagonal room. Stained glass and elaborate molding lined the ceiling. A gas chandelier hung above the center of the room.


Gas Chandelier


Although Osh insisted that his workers call him by his nickname, he still ran a tight ship and required that his employees offer first-class service. To drive this point home, each morning, Osh asked his workers to line Main Street and greet shoppers with a friendly wave and hello.


Emporium Employees Waving


This attitude was not lost on his customers. In the years that followed, Osh's store grew and expanded on both sides of the original building. Eventually, his Emporium took up an entire city block


The Emporium Grows

The Emporium Grows

The Emporium Grows

The Emporium Grows

The Emporium Grows


Osh Popham's name can be seen near the main entrance of the store painted in gold leaf at the bottom of the two display windows. He also commissioned a beautiful medallion to greet customers as they entered a side door.


Emporium Main Entrance

Gold Leaf Osh Popham

Emporium Medallion


With this expanded space, Osh could now offer a wide variety of goods to his customers. He also insisted that only quality merchandise be offered.


Emporium Sign

Emporium Floor Space

Emporium Sign


Always being one to keep up with the times, Osh had his later buildings wired for electricity. However, this new power source was unreliable and he couldn't afford to have his store shrouded in darkness should the lights go out. So he had his chandeliers hand crafted in Italy to support both this newfangled energy and the reliable gas. On this combination fixture, the electric lamps point downwards and the gas fixtures up.


Gas-Electric Chandeliers


Osh never got around to updating his original shop and the gas-only lamp still hangs there today.

In an effort to offer his customers the finest shopping experience available, Osh decorated his store with all the elegance and charm that Victorian architecture would allow. Stained glass signs, wood carvings, ornate ceilings and cornices all added to the effect. Even the tile flooring was carefully crafted to dazzle his customers.


Stained Glass

Stained Glass

Ceiling and Light Fixture

Porch Overhang

Cornices

Wood Carving

Tile Floor


Osh also expected his employees arrive each day on time, pressed and dressed in proper attire.


Emporium Employees


With his new-found wealth, Osh decided to travel and booked passage to Europe. While there, his horizons were broadened and he became acquainted with the new Edwardian style of design that was becoming in vogue. Upon his return, he found that business had been brisk during his absence. Once again, he decided to expand his shop; however, there was no place else to grow as he had already purchased and built on all of the available land. Not to be deterred, he made arrangements with the city and bought a portion of Center Street to enlarge is beloved Emporium. His latest expansion debuted in 1901 and was called the Emporium Gallery.


Emporium Gallery

Emporium Gallery

Emporium Gallery


With this new floor space, Osh was able to offer even more goods to his eager customers. As the gold lettering on a window announces, the following items were now available to better people's lives.

Electric Lamps
Gramophone Talking Machines.
Edison Kinetoscopes
Imported Glassware
Ladies' Wearing Apparel
Finest House Furnishings
Children's Toys and Novelties


Emporium Gallery Window


Inside the Emporium Gallery, the Edwardian design is obvious. Lighter woods and a pastel color scheme replaced the heavier and darker Victorian tones found in his adjacent shop. The feeling was bright and airy.

When arriving through the Gallery entrance, customers found themselves beneath a massive dome of intricate design. Perched high on a display table, two stately mannequins stand guard. Beyond, a stained-glass ceiling and four massive chandeliers light the floor space.


Emporium Gallery Dome

Mannequins

Emporium Gallery Stained Glass Ceiling

Emporium Gallery Chandelier


Tucked away at ceiling level on the two side walls are display niches, showcasing the latest fashions and goods from home and abroad.


Niche with Products and Goods

Niche with Products and Goods

Niche with Products and Goods


On the back wall, a large mural displays Osh's happy customers and employees enjoying their shopping experience at the Emporium Gallery. In the background, a rendering of his new addition can be seen. The following words are printed on the flowing ribbon of the mural: Shopping in the Grand Style " Personal Luxuries " Finest Fashions.


Emporium Gallery Mural


Osh Popham is no longer with us, but his store continues to delight and entertain. The Emporium greets literally millions of people each year and takes in millions of dollars each month. So now it's time to pull back the curtain and take a look at the realities of this fixture that anchors Main Street.


Emporium Main Entrance


Let's start with the question, “Who is Osh Popham?” He was a character in the 1963 Disney movie “Summer Magic.” Played by Burl Ives, Osh Popham was the local postman who also ran the general store in the town of Beulah, Maine. Although Disney has created other “citizens” of Main Street to mix and mingle with the guests, Osh Popham has never been one of them. I guess he's too busy running his store and doesn't have time to lollygag with the street people.


Summer Magic Movie Poster

Burl Ives


Two of the songs from the movie were “Summer Magic” and “Flitterin'.” Both of these can be heard in the background music loop played up and down Main Street.

A tradition that started years ago at Disneyland's Emporium was carried on at the Magic Kingdom Emporium for a time. With the opening of each new animated movie, a number of 3D tableaus were created, depicting scenes from the story and displayed in the store windows. With each new movie came new tableaus. Guests would delight at these simple, but oh so intriguing displays and looked forward to new characters on subsequent trips. It was a great way to advertise Disney's latest films.

Unfortunately, this tradition is no longer observed in the Magic Kingdom. Instead, six classic movies are on permanent display. Each movie receives one window. Beneath the tableau is a brief description of the story. Viewing them from left to right we have “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Cinderella,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “Pocahontas.”


Tableau Window

Story Plaque

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Cinderella

The Little Mermaid

Beauty and the Beast

Aladdin

Pocahontas


Even though these scenes do not change from year to year, they are still worth your attention. I realize that when you arrive at the Magic Kingdom, your intent is to race down Main Street to your favorite attraction. But later in the day, when you need a breather, be sure to venture back to the Emporium and check them out. You and your kids will get a kick out of them.

You might also want to do some shopping during this time of day. One thing to keep in mind, the worst time to shop at the Emporium is right after a parade and at closing. Everyone puts off this activity until they're ready to leave as they don't want to carry bags. Remember, if you're staying at a Disney resort, they will deliver your purchases to your hotel. And if you're staying off property, there are lockers located at the entrance to the park.

As we know, theming is everything to Disney. But sometimes modern inventions can ruin the atmosphere. Such is the case with today's electronic cash registers. As quaint as the old fashioned hand-cranked machines were, they would never do in 2012. So Disney has had to cleverly mix the old with the new. In order to make these modern wonders less conspicuous, the Imagineers have built partitions around the machines to hide them from the public's view.


Hidden Cash Registers


Disney has also incorporated another modern shopping technique into the Emporium that I'm sure Osh would have approved of. They have created a “single line” for multiple registers. If you're like me, you always pick the “wrong” line and are stuck behind the individual with a hundred questions and the inability to make up their mind. The single line eliminates this problem. However, beware! The Disney team is genius at marketing. They have placed numerous impulse items along the line to seduce you into one more purchase. Maybe you will be able to resist the temptation, but your children will bug you until you give in.


Single Line

Single Line


While talking with a cast member about this new line arrangement I was told that the new system isn't foolproof. Many guests do not realize there is a single line and will walk up to a register ahead of those waiting. If this happens to you, politely inform the naïve shopper that you were ahead of them.

For the most part, this article is not about the merchandise sold at the Emporium. However, I do want to make you aware of some items not out on display. “Behind the counter” merchandise includes aspirin (and other pain relievers), Pepto Bismol, sun screen, bug repellant, feminine products, deodorant, Band-Aids, and more. If you need something special, don't assume it's not available. You'd be surprised at all the specialty items Disney stocks to take care of their guests. Always ask. The counter where these items are sold is located just to the left of the main entrance off of Town Square. Note, tobacco products are not sold anywhere within the Magic Kingdom.


Special Merchandise Counter


The Emporium Gallery was a controversial addition to Main Street. Although I recounted the romantic, Disney version above, many were not happy with this change. Disney claimed they were answering guest needs by adding more shopping opportunities, but most saw this expansion as another way to make a buck. It was argued that the same merchandise was already available in store after store and many saw no reason to destroy Center Street just to add additional merchandising floor space.

Personally, I miss the flower carts that were once located on West Center Street. And at Christmas time, Donald's Tree Farm was a wonderful holiday treat. Yes, I know, Disney has moved Donald's Tree Farm to other areas since then, but it's just not the same. This dead-end street offered a simple, uncomplicated spot that added realism to the area.


West Center Street


Controversy aside, The Emporium Gallery still offers some interesting details. Let's start with the date this addition was established, 1901. It's no accident that this is also the year Walt Disney was born (December 5). But there is more to it than just that. This is also the year Queen Victoria of England died (January 22).

With her death, the Victorian Era ended and the Edwardian Era (in honor of King Edward VII) began. Most of the buildings on Main Street reflect the decorating styles of this earlier time whereas the Disney Gallery sports the less ornate style of the Edwardian Era.

The Emporium Gallery mural I mentioned earlier actually depicts a number of Imagineers, not happy customers and employees. These Imagineers were responsible for the design, story, and execution of this addition. Although I could list their names, the information would be tedious and soon forgotten. However, there is one portrait here that demands your attention, Joyce Carlton. Her likeness can be found in the lower left corner of the painting.

Joyce is credited with creating the attraction “it's a small world” for the 1964 New York World's Fair. She also worked on the animated movies “Cinderella,” “Peter Pan,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Lady and the Tramp.” In 1982, Joyce moved to Central Florida where she could concentrate her efforts on Disney World as a Senior Show Production Designer. She is also the first female Disney cast member to reach the 50 and 55 years of employment milestone.

Joyce officially retired in 2000, but continued working part-time through 2006/7. Most of these “retirement” years were spent mentoring other Imagineers. She was honored as a Disney Legend in 2000. She also has a window on Main Street that reads: "Dolls by Miss Joyce, Dollmaker for the World”


Emporium Gallery Mural

Painting of Joyce Carlton

Photograph of Joyce Carlton


Is it the Emporium or not?

Disney really tries to confuse guests when it comes to the Emporium. Technically, the Emporium ends with the Emporium Gallery. However, with this latest addition, it is now possible to walk from Town Square all the way to Casey's Corner through a maze of merchandise without ever venturing outdoors. In reality, the west side of Main Street is one humongous shop. Throughout the “stores” are a number of signs entitled “Emporium Store Guide.” Included on this guide are Disney Clothiers, Main Street Fashion & Apparel, and Hall of Champions. Nevertheless, these stores are not listed by name on the map and fall under the general term of “Emporium.” Yet outside, their names beckon proudly to the passing throngs. So are these, or are these not, a part of the Emporium?


Emporium Map

Disney Clothiers

Main Street Fashion & Apparel

Hall of Champions


I asked a supervisor about this incongruity and I was told that the west side of Main Street is known as the Emporium “complex.” I guess ol' Osh purchased a few more stores when nobody was looking.

Since I personally don't consider anything past the Emporium Gallery to be part of the Emporium, I won't be covering these other shops at this time. Besides, if I did, I would start lamenting the passing of the Penny Arcade and the House of Magic. So it's better I stop here. We don't want to get me started on this hot topic. LOL.

If you're in search of a Disney souvenir, either useful or impractical, the Emporium is a good place to start. Good ol' Osh Popham would be proud of the current proprietors and how much merchandise they've offered for sale here. For a diehard shopper, the Emporium is paradise. For the adamant non-shopper, the Emporium can still be a great place to visit if you slow down and smell the roses. Try looking at the details rather than the Mickey Mouse plush.



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Comments (27)

Tricia:

Thank you for sharing "Osh's" story. I to miss the penny arcade. I hope that they still have some of the machines in the Boardwalk and at the Main Street train station.

Also I look forward to your blogs as you always share something I did not notice before.

Josh:

hey Jack
I always try to visit the Emporium when I visit. It is a really cool store and is full of everything. I also love the history behind it as well as the black and white photos in the beginning to set the mood of the history. can't wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

Nice additon to your blogs Jack.

And very clever use of sepia to denote "old times".

I especially like all the sepia toned photos! Given your attention to detail and comupter skills, I was a little suprised you didn't photoshop out the castle in picture #5 - that was the only thing I saw in the sepia photos that screamed "Walt Disney World". (I thought maybe you would insert a tree or something to cover the castle - not that hard to do with a sepia print)

And I was wondering, is the distinguished looking gentleman in photo #1 named Jack Spence?

Jack Answer:

I never noticed the castle in the one picture until you pointed it out. If I had, it would have been easy to photoshop it out -- and I would have.

The guy in picture #1 is Burl Ives.

Great blog as always, all the pictures and detail make it very enjoyable! Would you happen to have an old picture of Donald's tree farm, I'd love to see what it use to look like?
My wife and I love to shop at WDW as we don't make it down nearly as much as we'd like to so we "have" to stock up. More and more it's nearly impossible to find any unique items to that particular shop, land, or park. This has taken much of the interest and fun away of going into different shops to discover what was sold inside. Hopefully this will change but it doesn't seem likely.
Keep up the great work!

Jack's Answer:

Sorry, I do not have an old picture of Donald's Tree Farm. :-(

I agree. The merchandise has become homogenized. It's the same everywhere. However, this tactic saves Disney money so I don't see it changing anytime soon.

Alex Chambers:

Jack,

Great piece.

I have a question regarding the Emporium Store Guide (pictured):

The guide pictures the castle and labels it "Cinderella's Castle." I'm always very careful to refer to the castle as "Cinderella Castle." Am I wrong, or did Disney make a mistake in its signage? Or did the name change at some point and Disney simply didn't fix the sign?

Just curious.

Jack's Answer:

This is one of my pet peeves. I can forgive the average guest for using the wrong name, but not Disney. You are correct, it's Cinderella Castle (not possessive).

If you ride the Liberty Belle, you can also hear Mark Twain call it Tom Sawyer's Island. Once again, the name is not possessive.

Reagan:

Jack,
Thank you for another interesting article. I do like to browse (and shop) at the Emporium. It can certainly be busy later in the day and during a parade, but sometimes I like just meandering slowly during that time when I can stop and buy something or just look at what I will buy later during the vacation.
I liked your sepia pictures too. I look forward to your blogs on Mondays!

Jenny Sperandeo:

Hi Jack! I love the Emporium and have spent TONS of money here on myself and my family (how can you not on a trip to Disney).
I always look forward to the window displays. They are so descriptive and detail oriented. The always make me smile, and I turn into a kid all over again...

Connie:

I love this store. When I see it as I enter Magic Kingdom. I know I have arrived in my Happy Place away from reality.

I know World of Disney has everything Disney. But I also noticed that Emporium has items that can only be found there. It is a wonderful landmark and welcome to Magic Kingdom.

Jack -

Love the old time sepia pix - especially the "Darkroom Magic" of photo #1, but didn't recognize Burl Ives at first (I'm of the age where his animated Snowman character in Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is forever seared into my mind and how I always remember him)!

I hate to admit it, but I was distracted by shopping when in The Emporium in August, and failed to notice many of the details you pointed out (I did take the time to notice more details in the stores on Sunset Blvd at DHS while the family shopped). I make an effort to pay attention to all the wonderful details the Imagineers created, however sometimes it's information overload - I'll have to wait 'til I move to your area, get my AP and be able to take the time to study all the details you show us so brilliantly!

- Jeff

Pam:

Awesome blog, Jack! My mom raised me on "Summer Magic" and when I started your blog, I got all excited seeing Osh Popham's name. Funny, I have NEVER in the um-teen times being at MK have I ever noticed that signage. It's a must next year when my mom will be with us! Thanks for the happy thoughts.

Jane:

Thanks for another fantastic blog Jack!

I was wondering the world myself this week and noticed that the old skyway buliding in Fantasyland was gone and that new construction was happening. Any word on what Disney is buliding in that spot?

Jack's Answer:

Disney is building new restrooms and stroller parking in this area. In addition, there will be a walkway here that lead directly to the Haunted Mansion. Once the new restrooms are complete, the old restrooms next to the Peter Pan queue will be closed and the Peter Pan queue will be expanded and enhanced with interactive games.

Jen:

I miss the penny arcade and magic shop. I have such great memories of spending lots of time in those two shops when going to the Magic Kingdom with my Gramma. She worked part time in the glass shop on Main Street and was a Disney Golf Classic Volunteer so we got to go quite often.

John:

Ah, the Magic Shop. I distinctly remember a trip in 1978 when my Dad bought a simple trick that turned a stack of nickels into dimes, then back again to nickels. I also purchased a can of peanut brittle that --surprise surprise-- was really full of those springy snakes. I'm sure I fooled no one when I randomly offered them peanut brittle from a can, but what great memories!

Laurie:

I forgot about center street! I remember taking pictures there in a sled at Christmas time in the late 90's.
I love the atmosphere of the emporium. I managed to only buy one thing in there on my trip last week. I usually do my big trip shopping at world of Disney at downtown Disney.
Thanks for another great blog Jack.

Erin Blackwell:

WONDERFUL! I loved the backstory for the store and how you told it with the B&W pictures.

I miss the windows showing the current movie. I always used to rush to see what they showed. I also miss the flower carts; they gave such a charm to Main Street.

I do LOVE the Emporium. My husband is always dragging me out. :) Its details, architecture, atmosphere.... I just adore it. To me, it shows what makes a real Disney story which is a unique look and feeling. It's why I equally love the Animal Kingdom stores for their rich details that fit their environment, and what I call "The Wand Room" with Mickey's hand sweeping a magic wand around the room (up in the ceiling) with the original music featuring mechanical sounds that fit the "gear and cog" look of the characters on the wall.

Anderson:

Dear Jack,

As always, a wonderful blog.

In my schjool, i am taking a class theat involves computer applications. We were using animoto. I decided to use the sepia images of the Emporium to make my example video. Since you do not have a video for thsi blog, i hope it will do it justice.

http://animoto.com/play/7YkZmnzSSDTWirHEDQSD7Q

(Please note, I only had 30 seconds of time to put into the video, that is wht it is short)

Yours Truly,

Anderson

Trish Horton:

WAIT! "House of Magic"?! Please tell me more!

See, in 1978, my parents took me to Magic Kingdom. I was 5. I have very little memories of the trip because I was so young. I remember seeing the Castle, meeting Mickey, and getting really, *really* creeped out in this store on Main Street!

Long story short...my father, who was the ultimate cheapskate, never bought himself anything. Then, on our trip to Magic Kingdom he went crazy over this Frankenstein mask (made by Don Post Studios). It was $20-$25 - a fortune to Dad back then - but he bought it anyway. He wore it literally every single Halloween for over 20 years and always scared the bejesus out of the neighbors!

When Dad got "too old" we made a creature for our Halloween display in our yard and put the mask on it, so he'd still be with us, LOL!

Dad has since passed away, but 'Frankie' is our yearly reminder of that trip to Disney and Dad's fun Halloween pranks.

Anyway, I'd LOVE to hear more about the House of Magic because I am sure that is what my distant childhood memory is from. After that trip in 1978, I did not return to WDW until 2001. Of course, I have been dozens of times since them! :-) Where is exactly was the old House of Magic located? Any pictures?
Thanks in advance!

Michelle B.:

You do such an amazing job with an amazing level of detail! One addition though: You mention "Everyone puts off this activity until they’re ready to leave as they don’t want to carry bags. Remember, if you’re staying at a Disney resort, they will deliver your purchases to your hotel. And if you’re staying off property, there are lockers located at the entrance to the park."

Instead of lockers, you can have your purchases sent to the front of the park for pickup. The pickup location in the Magic Kingdom is to the right of the Fire Station. Yes, I know the pick up place well! This is also helpful if you are checking out the next day as Disney needs a couple of days to deliver the package to your resort.

Mary Mac:

Jack, I love Summer Magic and am so happy to see that you tied it all together with Osh and the Emporium. About the store windows, when I was there a couple years ago at Christmas, they were displaying beautiful scenes from Mickeys Christmas Carol! Loved them! Thanks for your great work!

Jason Hocker:

Jack, you are my favorite writer about Disney, and this article may be one of your best. I usually don't post comments like this, but enjoyed this article so much I want to encourage more! I love the level of detail you go into and describing things I've never read about anywhere else.

ClareC.:

Jack, I remembered the side street but not the name. Thanks for bringing that to my recollection. Center Street was such a charming little area. Great article!

Jack:

What a fantastic piece! I particularly enjoyed the first half, in which you recreated for us the "history" of the Main Street shops. A really delightful read. Thanks, as always!

Richard/Tralfie

meagan:

If only Main Street and the Emporium were always that empty, so we could take the time to enjoy the little things like you pointed out in your blog! Love all the goodies up on the shelves...definitely looking for these from now on :D

Marguerite Provost:

As many times as i have visited Disneyworld I never noticed Osh Popham name on the windows. Summer Magic is one of my favorite movies. I have watched it many times with my two granddaughters Isabela and Alexandra. We love singing the songs. Its' a wonderful story. My next visit I will be sure to look and take a photo.

Dawn Mitchell:

Jack, What a wonderful article! We will be in THE WORLD next october and I cannot wait to seek out the many items you pointed out. This will be my fifth visit and there is always something new to see. Thank You!!

Mike F:

Love the back story! I didn't recall there being a Center street until reading this but now the memories rush back. I would love to see where it (as well as the House of Magic and Penny Arcade) were overlaid on something like the Emporium Store Guide Map.

Barbara Fitzgerald:

Thank you for a wonderful story on the emporium I too spend a lot of time there when I'm at the park. It is a wonderful place to cool off on a hot day. You can walk from one end of main street to other.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 22, 2012 8:19 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Rump Humor.

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