Friday, May 17, 2013

New Yet Old in New York: Reclaim Your Youth at Mr. Throwback

By Mitch Broder

Somewhere there’s a place where the Power Rangers still morph, the Smurfs still frolic, and the California Raisins still wrinkle.

It’s where the Nickelodeon blimp always sails and the Mighty Ducks always play.

It’s on East Ninth Street. It’s called, not surprisingly, Mr. Throwback.

It’s designed to look like the childhood bedroom that you left behind, specifically if your childhood took place in the eighties or the nineties. It’s filled with the kind of stuff that you most likely left in it. And now that stuff can be yours again. If you want it. And can afford it.

Yes, though it may be unsettling to people who come from earlier decades, nostalgia now refers to years like 1993. It means the Jerky Boys. It means the Spice Girls. It means “Beethoven.” It means “Full House.” They’re all here, waiting to comfort all the people who never forgot them.

Among those people is Michael Spitz, Mr. Throwback himself, who is thus, but only coincidentally, Mr. T. He never forgot them, so he got them back. And now he sells them. And when he’s not selling them he’s still happy, because he walks among them.

He was teaching t-ball to four-year-olds when his life went into reverse. But it wasn’t because of the four-year-olds. It was because of his parents’ house. “You see your old video games,” he says. “You see your old toys. You go into your basement. I guess the concept of the store was to bring back everything from my childhood.”

He brought back He-Man. He brought back the Ghostbusters. He brought back the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They’re all here in the form of figurines and other playthings. He brought back Pokémon and Game Boy and Super Nintendo. Not to mention Hulk Hogan and the Energizer Bunny.

They’re in a space that’s actually a cross between a bedroom and a bedroom closet. It has scuffed-up wood floors and posters on the walls. Michael sits in the rear at a desk equipped with an Alf phone. On his tube television he runs a VHS tape of “The Mighty Ducks.” All day.

Other videocassettes on hand include “Home Alone” and “Free Willy.” Audiocassettes feature Billy Squier and New Kids on the Block. Everything’s sprinkled among period sports jerseys, jackets, sweatpants, caps, and T-shirts, along with T’s that celebrate the likes of the Backstreet Boys and MTV.

The sports collectibles are a big draw. “All the old brands I sell are coming back now,” says Michael, who is usually modeling some of the stuff in the store. “Stylists are coming in here because this stuff is so hot, they’re using it as inspiration to create their next lines.”

But everybody love the toys. “My favorite part of this,” Michael says, “is when someone comes in and says, ‘This is the coolest store ever.’”

“This is my life and I’m reliving it every day,” he says, and picks up a He-Man. “I played with this when I was a kid, and now I’m holding it again.”

Regress at Mr. Throwback, 428 East Ninth Street, between First Avenue and Avenue A, New York City.

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