Monday, April 21, 2014

Treasure City - Still Cheesy after All These Years

In an antique shoppe in Indiana we ran across this postcard:

Ha!  A very vivid childhood memory popped up.

I was a smallish lad back in the 1960s.  Our family was driving the old U.S. 10 Highway on our way to the "up North cabin". About half way there, when the refrains of "are we there yet?" were just starting up, there was a series of road side signs announcing the marvels to be seen at Treasure City in Royalton Minnesota.  The best, the most tantalizing come on was the "Two Hundred Pound Man Eating Clam!!!".

Usually my brothers and I had been naughty and no frivolous treats were forthcoming, but once or twice we did get to stop.  The Clam was a bit of a disappointment.  I guess it could eat you if you stuck your head into it and gave it enough time....

image from Roadside America
The rest of the store was full of classic tourist trap merch.  Shells (non man eating), flags, snow globes, plaques, t-shirts.  There was kind of a pirate theme to much of it.

Fast forward a generation.  About twenty years ago I went up to the old lake place with my three young boys.  Treasure City was still there.  And the merchandise was still tacky beyond belief.  The "Man Eating Clam" was inside (as above).  He used to be mounted on the front of the building.

And guess what, it is 2014 and Treasure City is STILL THERE!.  They have added a few new lines like fireworks. Ah, what a dream that would have been to my younger self.....

Evidently nothing, not the construction of I-94 that diverted much of the traffic; not the ups and downs of the economy; not the simple fact that nothing they sell is really necessary...none of it matters. Treasure City is a Minnesota institution that seemingly will exist as long as antsy kids get hauled to the lakes of Northern Minnesota.

But the real surprise in my antique store find was on the reverse:

According to this circa 1964 artifact, Treasure City was a multi location enterprise.  The Suamico Wisconsin branch has vanished but the Manistique Michican location is still going strong, if apparently on a much less "kitchy" basis than their Minnesota affiliate.

I wonder what the connection between the three sites was?  They were all positioned in places likely to catch vacationers.  They all had similar merchandise.  Perhaps a single family ran them all?  It seems implausible that they would be a franchise operation in the modern sense, this was 1964 after all.

My efforts to find other similar stores called "Treasure City" have not been fruitful.  There seems to be an extinct ghost town in Nevada, a defunct chain of department stores and an extant group of thrift stores that all use the same moniker.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The East Coast version is South of the Border, off I95. Signs along the highway for miles before you reached it. The border in question is the one between the Carolinas. Has its own Wiki page. Was there when I was a kid 45 years ago, and apparently still going strong.