Tales from Brookstone (Part I)

Between working in TV news and working in non-news video, I paid the bills (mostly) for a year by working at Brookstone. Remember Brookstone? The memory foam mattress you could lie down on (ew) and weird flashlights and a massage chair anyone could hop into? The company now seems to just live in airports, but once, it was a magical place where shoppers could kill ten minutes until Mom came out of Burdine’s.

That’s “my” store in the photo – Mall at Millenia in Orlando, FL. It’s a Lily Pulitzer now.

My Brookstone year started as a Christmas gig, shuffling boxes in the tiny back room. Eventually, I got to put on the denim apron and work the floor. It was a very hands-on store, so just about anything a customer could pick up would end up in the opposite corner from where it started. I remember these tiny sealed glass bubble aquariums that were in equilibrium until a sticky-fingered kid would shake it like a snowglobe and rattle all the brine shrimp (aka generic Sea Monkeys) inside.

We were opposite Hollister and you could smell all the cologne they’d spray from across the corridor. The big excitement one day was when Hulk Hogan’s daughter brought a camera crew in there for her reality show, “Brooke Knows Best.” I stood at our doors, safely off-camera, demonstrating a FOM pillow. FOMs were cuddly unless one broke open and your house filled with tiny foam beads that static-clinged to everything.

We sold lots of massagers and weird little clocks, but one big mover was a one-piece stereo called the AcoustiClear.  Instead of conventional speakers, it had two transparent plastic panels, vibrated by tiny speaker drivers. It looked cool and sounded OK, but unlike regular speakers, the sound came out the front and the back. That’s great if you set it in the middle of a room, but if you pushed it against a wall – like everyone would – half the sound went nowhere.

As I recall, the AcoustiClear also had an unusually large digital buffer. Early portable CD players would skip if you bumped them too much. I could pick up the AcoustiClear, pop in a chill CD, and shake it like a crazy monkey with no skipping. That would never happen in your house, but around Christmas, we would sell dozens a day.

When I get around to Part II of Tales from Brookstone, how I once almost sold a massage chair!