A trip to a theme park usually means buying a souvenir or two to remember your visit, or maybe a gift for family or friends who couldn't be there. Most theme parks feature large gift shops right at the entrance and exit of the park to meet the needs of guests who forgot something as they enter, and to get them to spend a few dollars more as they leave.
When Great Adventure's entrance plaza was relocated to the center of the park
several gift shops were added around the fountain area. However,
while the entry
area originally known as the Avenue of the States featured beautiful
landscaping, it was devoid of any gift shops. It wasn't until 1978
when the first gift shop named the Emporium was added but over time
proved to be too small for the entering and exiting crowds.
When Time Warner acquired Six Flags they immediately set to work enhancing the themed area of their parks as well as look for opportunities to cross promote their brand portfolio as well as increase revenues in their theme parks.
|A new and expanded retail shopping experience was planned as part of the retheme and remodel of Great Adventure's entrance, creating a colonial style Main Street. A large new store, called the Looney Tunes Shoppe was designed with multiple adjoining external facades to create the look of a series of smaller buildings while the interior was one large selling space. In the days before computer generated 3-D renderings were available, designers built intricate scale models to show the details of what the finished project would look like.
|Over the winter
off-season of 1993-94 construction of the new Looney Tunes Shoppe took
place, taking over the former landscaped entry. The building featured a
steel framework at its heart, with the detail of the facades created
with wooden framing and roof trusses.
The exterior was designed to look like six separate buildings, each with its own architectural style and appearance. This meant each would have its own distinct finishes, windows, doors, roofing, etc. to convey the look of a colonial era Main Street.
The interior was a large open sales floor which was broken up into smaller areas influenced by the slope of the ground which dictated different heights of the various entrance doors.
|As spring of 1994 approached, the construction team worked hard to complete the new shop for the opening of the park. The varying details on the facades involved a variety of trades working together to create the finished look. At the end of the string of buildings closest to the entrance gate, the new Looney Tunes Shoppe would also serve as the new Stroller Rental location as guests entered the park for the day.
While the Looney Tunes Shoppe was the largest addition to the newly rethemed Main Street area of the park, it was only a part of the main entrance overhaul. Existing shops like the Emporium and the shops across the street from the new Looney Tunes Shoppe were also given facelifts to help convey the new colonial style theme.
The entire entrance plaza was repaved with new landscaping, sidewalks, lighting, brick pavers. and a new Patriot Statue creating a more welcoming atmosphere. The area up to and including the Fountain and beyond, all the way to the Aqua Stadium, were included in the makeover process, creating a new, highly themed area out of what had been a jumble of styles and theme-less stands and shops.
|With the start of the
1994 season the Looney Tunes Shoppe made its big debut as the star of
the newly revamped Main Street area of the park. The new thematic
details of Main Street really made a big impact on the park entrance and
really made Great Adventure feel more like a theme park than an amusement park
for the first time since it opened twenty years earlier.
The Looney Tunes Shoppe also went a long way towards Time Warner's mission of cross-promotions in the Six Flags parks. At the same time Time Warner was operating Warner Brothers stores in malls across the country, the new store brought a similar look and vibe to the park.
The interior of the shop was very modern, with a black industrial
ceiling where track lighting was hung to highlight the displays. The
fixturing was modern and high end retail, with the center of the store
featuring a stucco cartoon landscape right out of a Wile E. Coyote &
Road Runner cartoon. This landscape served as a big display rack for plush Looney
Tunes figures of all shapes and sizes.
Upscale merchandise like animation cells and high end jewelry were featured throughout the store, with glass display cases full of collectibles and limited edition products. The park's merchandise had now moved into a place where it had never been, competing with the Disney and Universal parks in scale and scope.
|The new store really drew the eye of guests and increased sales. Six Flags was demonstrating they were trying to play in the "big leagues" of theme parks and went a long way in changing their image with guests.
|Like many parks, "Easter Eggs" were put into the decorative signs found around the buildings as tributes to the company. One of the most notable was the Pittman's Tavern sign, a reference to Bob Pittman, then president of the Six Flags division of Time Warner, and the driving force behind many of the changes being made in the parks.
|The Looney Tunes Shoppe of course featured the Looney Tunes characters inside, but also on the outside with a series of plaques featuring the familiar characters. The two largest entrances featured Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck over the doorways wearing colonial style tri-corner hats, combining the theme of the Looney Tunes with the theme of the Main Street area.
|Initially the Looney Tunes Shoppe and the nearby Declaration of Gifts shop were kept as two separate facilities with a gate between the two. In time the shops would be connected with a hallway built between them. The exterior gate remained as a decorative element to disguise the plain walls of the new passageway.
|Over the years the merchandise in the Looney Tunes Shoppe changed, with the high end and more expensive items giving way to more and more typical theme park merchandise. After Time Warner sold the parks off, the emphasis on showcasing all their brands and characters tapered off, with more emphasis put on park and attraction related merchandise rather than just showcasing characters.
|With the progression of seasons, the trees around the shop filled in and made Main Street more beautiful and welcoming over time.
|The change of summer into fall each year brought Fright Fest which became a bigger and bigger event each autumn. As part of the decorating for Fright Fest, window displays were changed to reflect the holiday, and the building itself was dressed up with cobwebs and boarded up windows to help create the spooky atmosphere of Halloween.
|With the passing of more than twenty years the weather and time began to take its toll on the facades of the Looney Tunes Shoppe, and repairs were made, replacing the brick facing with a shingle siding, as well as replacing the windows and lighting on the exterior.
|For the 2015, Six Flags Great Adventure began a new tradition with the introduction of the Holiday in the Park Christmas event. The Looney Tunes Shoppe was dressed up inside and outside for the event. The windows each displayed wreaths and the buildings were traced in white lights to glowing in the winter nights.
|The Main Street area of the park and the Looney Tunes Shoppe gave a warm welcome to guests as they entered Great Adventure for Holiday in the Park, and a bright good night as the park goers did their shopping on the way out at the end of the day.
|With the passing of more time additional brick facades of the exterior of the Looney Tunes Shoppe required replacing, and this time the last of the brick was removed and replaced with the same shingle style siding, this time in red. This led to a makeover of the store in 2020 becoming Six Flags Universe, removing all the Looney Tunes name and likenesses from the facades of the store.
|Six Flags Universe was a much needed update to the store, replacing fixtures and display pieces that had become worn and dated over more twenty five years. The interior was given a minimalist/warehouse look which was a trend in retail. The idea in keeping the fixtures and backgrounds neutral was to let the merchandise stand out. It also meant things could easily and quickly be changed with new trends and not become stuck with merchandise specific areas and fixtures while allowing it to be adapted to the changing seasons.
|Original Spotlight: August 31, 2020. GAH Reference#: SHOP-1994-001