Two Guys From Harrison, A Kid From NJ

TJ Wolf

Two Guys

As a kid growing up in Central New Jersey, the local Two Guys Discount Store was the place to go for anything and everything. It was the Walmart Super Center of its day before stores were called "Super Centers" or "Big Box Stores".

It had everything.

A Discount Department Store with Grocery Store, Pharmacy, Eye Glasses Center, Automotive Center, Hardware and Lumber, Garden Center, Sporting Goods, Pets, Clothes, Shoes, Records and Tapes, Toys, Hobbies, and even an Arcade.

Growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s I frequented the Two Guys store in Manalapan, NJ, with my family.

Being a Five and Dime kid in my own right, my fondest memories come from the ages of 5 to 10, which is just before Two Guys closed in 1982.
Steve Richey/Unsplash

Odd Fellows

I loved going to Two Guys.

So much in fact, my parents would code name it "Odd Fellows" when they didn't want me to know one or the other was headed there. The Odd Fellows code to thwart a young kid from spending any allowance or money from relatives in rapid fashion or worse begging his parents to buy something at the one stop shop for everything that was Odd Fellows...I mean...Two Guys.

I recall the Manalapan location being a large "L" shape with the main entrance near the Grocery Store. The second entrance was down by the Auto Center.

Entering Two Guys was always the same with the whirring noise of the automatic doors as you stepped on the rubber pad on the floor. I remember the Grocery Store too with its gigantic wood cutouts of meat and vegetables hanging from the walls and the old open floor freezers.

The Eye Center was in the middle of the main entrance foyer between the main store and the grocery.

The Main Store

Ah...the main store...that was where the retail magic happened for a kid with a few bucks. But first you had to pass the automated vending machines. A surprisingly effective trap. The old coffee and soup machine, not so much...but the Coke that was something special. You would put your coins in and select the drink. A paper cup would drop, followed by shaved ice into the paper cup, and finally followed by the most delicious tasting Coca Cola I've ever had.

Next it was past the Pharmacy on the left and the appliance center on the right. I still remember the rows and rows of 1970s black and white and color console TVs with their wood grain finishes. Then a quick walk past the service desk and the first set of grouped checkouts by the toy, hobby, and kids electronics department. Two Guys had it all. Not just toys and electronic games, but a true hobby shop inventory of electric trains, electric race tracks, and model kits. Many stored in glass cabinet cases along the back wall which also served as entrance to the garden center.

Outside the toy area lay another great aspect of Two Guys for a kid. An arcade within the store that featured not only the latest Coin Op video games but a miniature coin operated bowling alley.

I recall the shoe department across from the arcade and the record department on the other side of the store from it near the pharmacy. I can still remember buying my first LP album at Two Guys from their record department with its homemade looking wooden record bins.

Down past the records was the clothing department for kids. Many a pair of Garanimals was bought there if I recall. But not on Sunday! Clothes purchases on Sunday were illegal for years in NJ and therefore clothes were roped off. Literally...they put rope around the entire department using what appeared to be world's longest piece of clothesline.

Finally there was the auto center by the second entrance with it ever present smell of petroleum, tires, and oil. Except back then, I don't think they cleaned the bays...ever. Also at the end of the store were the Sporting Goods, Pets, and Lumber Departments.
S. Ruvalcaba/Unsplash

Way, Way Back

So that's my quick tour down "Two Guys from Manalapan" memory lane.

And after the store there was usually a happy kid stuck in the way, way, back of a 1979 Chevy Malibu Station Wagon with a new $2 Kenner Star Wars figure while trying to sit on plywood, in between some 2x4s, but not on paper bags of groceries, all while holding a bag of some Garanimals for class pictures, nails, curtains, and an empty paper cup that once held a holy grail of Coke in one hand and plastic bag with a 5 cent gold fish in the other.

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My primary mission is to spread awareness about the disease Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and many of its comorbidities. Given most physical activities cause me pain nowadays, I've taken on writing as a new hobby, form of therapy, and method to interact with others. You will find I also experiment with articles related to business and careers.

Atlanta, GA

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