The Building #19 store on Derby St. in Hingham, MA is responsible for a lot of great memories while I was growing up.
Say the words “Building #19” to any New Englander and it will immediately bring up memories of the store’s comic-style murals, their weekly black & white newspaper inserts, those amazing deals, and that strange store smell you could never figure out.
For those who don’t know, Building #19 was a chain of discount stores in New England that operated from the mid sixties until they declared bankruptcy in 2013. The stores were known for selling an assortment of items at drastically discounted prices. Many of the items sold at Building #19 were factory irregulars, discontinued models, post-expiration-date, damaged, or less than perfect in some other way, but they sold new merchandise as well.
From what I remember reading at the stores, Building #19 obtained most of their merchandise from liquidations, fire sales, overstocks, customs seizures, bankruptcy courts, and trucks driving under low bridges.
Building #19’s deals were no laughing matter. This place had some serious deals back in the day. For my family, it was all about the fantastic deals on household items. Building #19 frequently rotated their inventory which always meant we’d find a surprise or two.
For a kid like me, the huge savings meant you were more likely to get a “Yes” when I begged my mom or my uncle and aunt to get something. I have one very vivd memory of doing this, and it had disastrous results for me.
Picture it: Building #19, Hingham Ma, early December 1988. On this day, we just happened to be driving by the store, and my uncle said “How about we go to Building #19?”. Sounded good to us, and I headed for the toys as soon as we arrived. In the toy department I found gold. Not actual gold of course, but ne next closest thing: The five Voltron lions. Most of them were $3.99, the black lion was $4.99.
I grabbed all of them and went on a hectic search for my family. And after searching for what seemed like hour I finally found them. I begged and begged my mom to get me the toys. I even tried to explain how they joined together to form one big robot. Then came the dreaded decision, not from my mother, but from my freaking uncle who said “He can get four.”
What? Just four of the lions? No, no I said, if I only have four of the lions I can’t form Voltron. He didn’t care, he told me Christmas was just around the corner and it didn’t make sense for my mother to buy me five toys just a couple of weeks before Christmas. This started one of the loudest and more heated arguments I ever had with my family. They won in the end, and to this day I still have the red, the blue, the green, and the yellow tiger. But I never again saw the black lion anywhere.
Anyways, the years went by and the regular visits to Building #19 continued. Then, in the summer of 1994 I saw in one of the store flyers that the Hingham store wold be having a huge comic book sale that Wednesday. As you can imagine, I was there before the store opened so I could have my pick of stuff. I wasn’t alone, there were a ton of people there and we weren’t disappointed.
Inside we saw 4 long tables with piles and piles of comics on them. Mos of the comics were from the Silver Age and the Bronze age, but there were some surprises. For the next couple of hours I dug through the mountains of issues and found some good stuff like:
- Batman: The Killing Joke
- Showcase #94-100
- Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #106
- The Avengers #200
- Uncanny X-Men #147-150
And that’s just some of them. The conditions of the comics varied of course, but I didn’t care. At 25 cents per comic I got plenty of stuff to read that summer and at a bargain. That day is probably my favorite memory of Building #19.
Back then everyone I knew went to Building #19 for something. So if the stores were so popular, why did they close down a couple of years ago? Your guess is as good as mine. What I do know is that I would give just about anything to go back to that store and find some “new” treasures.