The end of yet another Dublin institution.
Fun Place The Joke Shop has announced it will close its physical store at the end of January 2024. They will continue to operate online, but anyone who has ever paid the shop a visit, either in their newer premises within Stephen's Green Shopping Centre (another Dublin institution set to go through serious changes), or the previous location on South King Street, the magic was most felt when taking an in-person browse.
While all Dublin closures hit home when you're a journalist that writes especially about the ins and outs of the city, this one has hit me personally more than most. Fun Place is a Dublin institution, operating for over four decades, with the South King Street shop beside the Gaiety Theatre often being referred to as "the shop with all the masks in the window".
It was more than just a place to buy stink bombs for 20c a pop, or trick spearmint gum, or that horse mask that went viral in 2009, when the world's economy was going to shit and we all needed a bit of a laugh (how could we have known the Tesco horse meat scandal that was coming right around the corner, making those masks all the more poignant). Fun Place brought a slice of funfair magic to the city centre, for children and adults alike, even drawing in celebrities such as Will Ferrell (I unfortunately was not rostered to work that day).
In 2015, I got my first retail job in none other than Fun Place: The Joke Shop, and that is where I worked for two Halloweens, and about 15 months in total. I thought I was applying for a job in a card shop, so I was surprised to be given the address of my new employer and find it opposite Sinnotts pub instead; the Card Company had taken over Fun Place and were instead recruiting for Halloween. I spent the next few months learning how to make balloon bouquets and selling Halloween costumes, and then selling Santa costumes, before entering a relatively quiet period in January.
It was the ideal part-time job while I was in college; weekend work, the odd evening here and there, and while I had a few mental encounters, with pre pubescent boys setting off stink bombs in the shop 30 seconds after buying them, or a man buying some silver spray paint to "impress" his girlfriend, and proceeding to spray his entire head right there in the store, using our mirror for guidance, it was probably the best first job I could've had for that time in my life, for the memories, and for the people I worked with. Even when people told me to smile more because I worked in a "fun" place, I loved it anyway.
I left Fun Place in November of 2016 to focus on college, but found myself in the following years always referring to it as "my" shop, or "our" shop when I met up with my former colleagues. When the pandemic hit, and they finished up on South King Street, it was a blow, but a joy when they reopened in Stephen's Green a year later, just in time for Halloween festivities that hadn't been allowed the previous year. One of my first Lovin Dublin articles was about the reopening of Fun Place, so important it remained to me years later.
That their time in Dublin is coming to an end, forty odd years after it was first started, is a tough pill to swallow, thinking of the generations of children to come who won't ever experience its joys. Where will people buy their Halloween costumes now? Or their stink bombs? Don't we have a right to stink bombs anymore? I was going to go on a whole spiel about how having to buy stink bombs online and wait days for them to be delivered takes some of the spontaneity out of it, but turns out you can't purchase them on Fun Place's website.
Watching Dublin institutions close is part and parcel with this job, but it doesn't make it easier. Like the ship of Theseus, how many elements such as a quaint little joke shop, or a café like Simon's Place have to be replaced before the city is something else entirely. You can understand the uproar at the proposed changes to Stephen's Green, or the demolition of The Bernard Shaw on South Richmond Street, or the arrival of yet another hotel when you see everything that makes us love Dublin start to change.
All this to say, we love you Fun Place, and you will be missed.
Header images via Instagram / Fun Place