|Sebastiano Ricci and his Sesame Street store sign|
How I got a Sesame Street General Store Sign
By Sebastiano Ricci
By Sebastiano Ricci
Like any avid puppeteer/Muppet fan, I've been collecting Muppet merchandise since I was a youngster. Over the years, I've obtained some pretty cool stuff from friends, online shopping, cons, and flea markets. But most recently, while scrolling through eBay, I stumbled across a rarity: an original sign from the Sesame Street General Stores. The General Stores were a short-lived chain of stores across the US in the 1990s, usually in shopping malls. I've done my fair share of research on the General Stores prior to discovering this sign. There isn't much information on the stores... very few pictures, no videos, and very little information on the stores exist. (if you have any pictures or footage, email me: email@example.com)! I've always been interested in the history of the stores, but they quietly closed down in the late 1990s before I was born.
My eyes lit up when I found this sign for sale. It was from the store that was located in the South Hill Village Mall. The seller stated that he found it in the dumpster when the store closed. Thankfully, the seller saw some potential in the sign and saved it from being scrapped like many other General Store fixtures. My excitement deflated when I saw it was a local pickup auction, in Pittsburgh, PA - which is seven hours from my home in New York City. I inquired to the seller if shipping could be arranged, but after getting a $700 shipping estimate from UPS, I gave up.
I watched the auction end, without any bids. After messaging the seller, I was informed that the sign would be thrown out since nobody wanted it. It was like I got hit with the "no season 4 & 5 on DVD" all over again! I was crushed. I couldn't let the sign get this far just to be trashed. I then remembered that I had plans to go to Hershey, PA with some friends the following week, meaning I would be 3.5 hours closer to Pittsburgh. After talking to the seller, he told me that one other person was also still interested in the sign, and that the sign would be re-uploaded as a "buy-it-now". I luckily snagged it before the other guy (sorry to the other potential buyer if you're reading this - hope you understand).
Fast-forward to the weekend of Hershey. I enjoyed my time at Hershey Park with my friends, but the whole time I was eagerly awaiting my road trip to Pittsburgh. My friend, Paul, volunteered to join me on my journey. We set off to Pittsburgh, without a map to get this show on the road... well, we did use a GPS, if that counts. We eventually made it to Pittsburgh, and picked up the sign from the seller. Boy, oh boy - what a sight it was. It was just laying there, gracefully, on a gray tarp.
We shoved as much of the sign as we could in my car, and bungeed the heck out of the trunk door, since the 6ft long sign stuck out. Driving 7 hours at night with an 80lb slab of metal sticking out of the trunk is the scariest thing I've ever done, and I've watched the Bert & Ernie Pyramid sketch...alone...in the dark.
After four failed attempts to find an open coffee shop in order to stay awake, we finally arrived home at 4am. After a much needed sleep-in, we went to my storage unit to deposit the package. Of course with my wonderful luck, the elevator was out of service, so we had to take the stairs. When I put the sign with the rest of my collection, it stuck out like Snuffleupagus on the streets of New York City. But in a good way... it's the centerpiece that compliments my years and years of collecting. When the sign was on display in the store, it used to light up; hopefully I'll figure out how to rewire it. I'll make sure to keep ya'll updated if I get it working. When the day comes where I have my own man cave, this sign will be sitting front and center, reminding us of what once was.