Hammacher Schlemmer—An Everything Store

Hammacher Schlemmer—An Everything Store

Hammacher Schlemmer is not only the most fun pair of words to say, but it’s an American catalog that was founded in 1848 and sells functional, fantastical gifts.

(©Katie Labovitz)

What started as a hardware store in the Bowery that was known for its tools, the business went through a few shifts in ownership before becoming Hammacher Schlemmer & Co. in 1883. The company kept up its reliability with gadgets and was one of the first places to have a telephone in its store and sold such electric wonders like pop-up toasters and electric toothbrushes. Their well-known catalog was first printed in the early 1880s and has only expanded. Nowadays, you can peruse their famous products on their website.

Though the hardware store at 221 Bowery no longer exists, you can certainly visit Hammacher Schlemmer at its home since 1926—147 E. 57th St. (btw Third & Lexington aves.) in Midtown East. I recently visited this iconic business for the first time and was in awe of how the wares were either completely practical or wonderfully ridiculous.

When you first walk in, you notice a giant orca hanging from the ceiling. My first thought was to admire the opulent decoration and assumed it was a sculpture to be displayed in an apartment far bigger than mine. I should have realized, since Hammacher Schlemmer is known for gadgets, that this killer whale wasn’t meant to stay put—it’s a submarine.

Killer Whale Submarine (©Katie Labovitz)

Yes, a two-person submarine that can be yours for just $90,000. But wait, there’s more!

As I slowly worked my way around the store, I marveled at everything, thinking how if I had unlimited funds I would buy at least one of everything—if not for me, then definitely for my family and friends. I would definitely get my brother the RC Mario Kart Racers ($179.95 for Mario and Yoshi, with Bowser and Donkey Kong racers sold separately at $99.95 apiece.). And I was eyeballing the Arcade Legends 130 Game System ($4000) and Chewbacca Fleece Robe ($99.95) for myself.

In all seriousness, though, I will probably go back to Hammacher Schlemmer before my next trip and get the Million Germ Eliminating Travel Toothbrush Sanitizer ($29.95). Because for each Killer Whale Submarine, there are dozens of items that you can actually use on a daily basis that can be found in this generous catalog, especially for travelers and folks in need of unique souvenirs for their loved ones.

For additional comfort during long flights or car rides (also good for the office!), you can get the Traveler's Packable Gel Seat Cushion ($69.95) to reduce lower back pain. There is a 150-Country Travel Adapter ($34.95) to ensure that your phone and other electronic devices can plug in to outlets wherever you go. Or, if you can’t get to an outlet, Hammacher Schlemmer sells One Year Smartphone Backup Batteries ($69.95 and $49.95) that holds its charge so well that if it were to sit, fully-charged, on a shelf for an entire year, it would still be 97% charged instead of losing all of its power after extended inactivity.

RC Mario Kart Racers (©Katie Labovitz)

If you’re looking for something special to bring back home, Hammacher Schlemmer sells Personalized Caricature Bobbleheads ($129.95 apiece) that can resemble anyone you want! Or you could pick up a 3D Printing Pen ($99.95) or Personalized Protagonist books ($34.95 apiece) where your loved one’s name can be inserted into classics such as “Alice in Wonderland” or “Treasure Island” (and more) to make your little one the star of their favorite story.

Hammacher Schlemmer really has everything you can think of with regards to electronics, games, leisure activities, beach and pool accessories, apparel, travel, personal care and then some. I get now why Tom Hanks’ character in “Joe Versus the Volcano” visits Hammacher Schlemmer to get luggage and supplies for his trip—because those waterproof steamer trunks sure came in handy. (Said trunks are not available at Hammacher Schlemmer now, but they do have a selection of lovely leather bags and even a Self Weighing Suitcase—$199.95.)

The catalog’s slogan is “Offering the Best, the Only, and the Unexpected for 168 years.” That perfectly sums up this customer-oriented establishment.

You can visit Hammacher Schlemmer’s website 24/7 and the Midtown East store is open M-Sa from 10 am-8 pm and Sunday from 11 am-6 pm.

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