Federation Trading Post

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Name: Federation Trading Post
Date(s): 1970s
Profit/Nonprofit: profit
Country based in: USA
Focus: Star Trek
External Links:
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Federation Trading Post was a Star Trek and science fiction merchandise company, and museum.

There were two stores, one in New York City and one in Berkeley, California. Both were founded in 1975.

Different interviews and articles give different information who founded the stores, but it appears that both stores were founded and owned by Chuck Weiss and Sandy Sarris. [1] Ron Barlow and Doug Drexler were also involved in major ways, perhaps co-owners?

One early mention of the Berkeley store was in 1975: " Trekstars Unlimited wants to rent a micro or mini which can be programed with Star Trek computer games. Plans to offer games on terminal in store. (The Federation Trading Post in Berkeley). Contact Stephen Lampen." [2]

In early 1976, "People Magazine" also did a lengthy write-up about the Berkeley store (scroll WAY down): For Star Trek Freaks, Chuck and Sandy Keep the Enterprise Sailing, Archived version.

Federation Trading Post -- East: 210 East 53rd Street in New York City. Federation Trading Post -- West: 2556 Telegraph Road, Berkeley, California.

At some point, the doors to the New York Store closed (perhaps 1977).

The Federation Trading Post is a fascinating piece of Star Trek history. The first of its kind, the Trading Post was an all-Star Trek store founded by Chuck and Sandy Weiss in the 1970s in New York City and boasted “the only Star Trek museum in the galaxy.” Doug Drexler, who later became famous for his work on Trek (including two Emmy nominations), got his start working at the Trading Post and has since stated that the store’s founders “ignited a couple of careers.”

The Federation Trading Post didn’t last forever; today, a skyscraper stands in its place on 53rd Street. Eventually, it turned into a mail order catalog but ultimately went the way of, well, the mail order catalog. Although its time was finite, the Federation Trading Post had a huge impact on Trekkies of all ages. [3]
a 1977 ad
a 1977 ad
a 1977 mail order catalog
a 1976 ad

See some 1975 video footage here: Star Trek Store (1975) - San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive, Archived version.

Descriptions

From a Press Release

The Federation Trading Post, the only retail store ever devoted to a television series, will open its New York branch ... [It] will feature over three hundred different items from the highly popular science-fiction series Star Trek. In addition to the large assortment of unusual Star Trek posters, buttons, bumper stickers, magazines, books, model kits, etc., the avid Star Trek fan can lay claim to his own personal 'Tribble,' don a pair of pointed Vulcan (Spock) ears, dress up in an authentic Starfleet uniform complete with hand phaser, or just absorb the 'sounds of Star Trek' from the unique sound system running constantly.

From a Book

From All About Star Trek Fan Clubs, a quote by Ron Barlow:
Everyone that comes into the store realizes that the store is not just set up to make money, but it's set up to encourage fandom. It's set up to give them whatever hope they have in the show. We have a bulletin board which is a public-access board for any Star Trek fan to use. From time to time, we put up newspaper clippings, information that we've come up with for them to read. It saves us the time of explaining it, and all of the personnel working at the store are hard-core Star Trek fans, so if we don't have the information, chances are very few people would.

From One of the Founders

From Doug Drexler in 2010:

In 1975 there was no-nuthin! No movies, episodes, novels, DVDs, VHS zip, zero, zilch, nada! Star Trek was a failed TV show. Then a little shop sprang up the most unlikely of places, mid-town Manhattan, and located on a chunk of pretty upscale real estate no less. 53rd and Third! The neighborhood merchants were taking bets on how long we would last. They were in for a shock.

No one suspected the militant, aggressive, creative, fandom groundswell that was building. At the time, Star Trek was in syndication and was being shown on the local station at something like eleven at night. A bunch of kids us raised the money to run a 30 second commercial on television during Star Trek itself. The next day there was a line down the block, and it stayed that way for a solid year! We had huge amounts of fun for the next two trips around the sun, and it was truly an important ignition point for Star Trek fandom. [4]
From Doug Drexler in 2016:

Ron Barlow and I were huge Star Trek geeks, and I had a big collection of stuff. We used to print our own slides, which came from our personal collections. We started a museum in the back room and we put all kinds of props back there. We found a couple of guys in New Jersey who had a six-foot Klingon ship they made that was beautiful. We had a model of the bridge. The thing is that for the first month and a half there was no business; it was dead. And we were getting worried. The local merchants were laughing at us, and I'm not kidding. There was one day when I was walking back to the place, and one of the merchants made a snide remark and giggled. I got in his face. I can't believe I did that, because I'm not that kind of guy. "It's Star Trek. You're not just insulting me, you're insulting Star Trek." We managed to save enough money so that we could buy a thirty-second commercial on WPIX during Star Trek or Outer Limits. It was a thirty-second slide of Spock and us proclaiming, "It's the only Star Trek store in the galaxy," blah, blah, blah. That ran on TV and the next day there was a line around the block, and it stayed there for months and months. We would let in two people and let out two people.

When there would be a convention, we would take fanzines on consignment— we had a wall of fanzines. We had posters printed and slides made. The uniforms on Saturday Night Live that John Belushi and the others wore in a skit, those were from us. We became the center of Star Trek in New York. If someone had DeForest Kelley on a show, they would send over a PA and say, "We need props," and we would loan them to them. But we'd get to go and meet these people.

There was one night I'll never forget. It was one of those steamy, rainy nights in New York and I ran out to get a cup of coffee. When I came back, my glasses were fogged over and I couldn't see anything. My friend Mitch was working behind the counter and says, "Doug, you should come over here, there's someone that I think you should meet." I walk over and I'm looking into somebody's chest. I look up through my foggy glasses—and it's Gene Roddenberry. He had heard about the store and wanted to come by and see it. He was really nice. He said, "The important thing is that you guys are doing a good job. You take care of "The important thing is that you guys are doing a good job. You take care of everybody and you're treating it well." He was happy about the store. [5]

From a Fan's Recollection

A fan in 2017 tells about visiting the store when he was an amazed ten-year old. See the original article link for several very excellent photos.

In the 70s, when I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Star Trek used to air at 6:00 p.m. Monday to Friday on WPIX TV, Channel 11. One night, right after the show, a 30-second commercial flashed across my TV set: there was now a retail store in New York City called The Federation Trading Post devoted to selling all things Star Trek. It was the first store of its kind. I couldn’t believe it.

If you were a fan in the 70s, you knew how desperate we were for anything Star Trek, so having a store that sold nothing but stuff related to my beloved Star Trek was a dream come true. I went nuts and immediately ran to the next room to tell my Dad that I had to go there. SOON.

The store was located at 210 East 53rd Street in Manhattan, a city block that, in those days, was a mix of businesses, restaurants, and residences. I was the first one out of the car. I ran up the open-iron type steps to a patio deck where I immediately spotted a large rendering of Spock with the Vulcan salute and the words “The Federation Trading Post” on the store’s front window.

I opened the door and walked in, then reached an immediate state of euphoria as my 10-year-old eyes took in the various kinds of Star Trek merchandise on display. When my family came in behind me I could barely hear them making jokes about my current state of mind; I was transfixed. I flipped again when I saw the mini-musuem that was set-up inside the store. I was like an addict, getting the biggest Star Trek fix of all time.

The museum room was lined with accurate reproductions of the control panels and transporter back-glass from the Enterprise, a Balok puppet head and a large scale model replica of a Klingon battlecruiser. There was a phaser displayed among some tribbles and other fan-made props like agonizers and hypo-sprays. They also had William Shatner’s first season green uniform tunic with rank braid on the shoulders. As I gazed upon all of these gems, recorded Star Trek sound effects played in the background on a loop.

I had a tear in my eye, if I remember correctly.

Now, at the behest of my family, I was asked to stop gazing at the museum and start shopping as this was going to be a long process.

I delved deep: photographs of all sizes and types, posters, model kits, books, blueprints, key-chains (they used to carry a “Doomsday Machine” key-chain, which I have never seen since), tribbles, insignia patches, iron-ons, t-shirts, authentic reproductions of third season (polyester) uniform shirts in all colors and hand-made electronic phaser props. I was drooling at this point and was surprised that I wasn’t getting asked to leave for soaking the store’s carpet.

[...]

For all of you who were lucky to have had the experience of the Federation Trading Post, especially at that real “kid age,” you can relate to all of this. It really was a special place for us fans. For all of you who didn’t get a chance to visit this once upon a time midtown magic, I wish you could have! [6]

A Federation Trading Post Star Trek Computer Game

Fans could play computer games at the Berkeley store.

They appear to be offered as early as 1975: From an ad in a computer club newsletter: "Trekstars Unlimited wants to rent a micro or mini which can be programed with Star Trek computer games. Plans to offer games on terminal in store. (The Federation Trading Post in Berkeley). Contact Stephen Lampen." [7]

One such game was in 1977, one created by Dave Needle:

All of the games Needle and friends had created so far had been 100% hardware based. Now they decided to create a game using a microprocessor (they would actually end up using two 8080s in the game). While Needle had no real knowledge of software, Stan Shepherd was a software whiz. They took a trip to the Federation Trading Post (an unauthorized seller of Star Trek merchandise in Berkeley run by Charles Weiss and Ron Barlow) and offered to create a Star Trek video game for the place. When the owner told them “Sure, go ahead” they immediately began working on the game. What they didn’t know was that the Trading Post got offers like that every week and no one ever actually came through on their promise. That wouldn't be the case this time. After about four months, Needle, Shepherd, and Bob Ewell had finished the game and the people at the Trading Post were stunned.

[Dave Needle] The game had an Enterprise ship and a Klingon ship. They each had shields around them with 16 shield segments. The shields took individual hits and glowed when they got hit, which was a pretty good accomplishment in those days, and then dimmed down to a lower level of brightness. A couple of hits on a shield would make it die and then a direct hit through the shields to your ship would cause some damage. You could rotate your ship so that the incoming weapon would hit a shield instead of your ship. It was 2-player or one player against the computer. You had 99 photon torpedoes and some amount of phaser energy. In those days that was top-notch stuff. Plus we had a cloaked Romulan ship that would show up when he felt like it and shoot a fireball at you. You could damage the Romulan ship if you hit it while it was visible. The game had 16 levels of gray. It had 42 or 43 plug-in, wire-wrapped boards in a big chassis, 2 fans in the bottom
The game was spectacularly successful. We didn’t understand gaming construction and we built the cabinet bigger than 32 inches across. As a result a lot of places we tried to play the game in couldn’t get it through their door. The other mistake we made was we had this tiny coin box in the bottom that overflowed every day. So we ended up taking it out and putting in two two-pound coffee cans, one under each of the coin slots, which also filled up. While it was in the Federation Trading Post, we were making $400 every couple of days. The three of us, I now had two other partners, would leave work at lunch, drive out to Berkeley and collect the money. After a while we got tired of driving there and we just trusted him and once a week we’d go out there and they’d give us a check of a pile of cash. Did I build ten of these? Did I sell it to someone? No. What a jerk I am. [8]

Similar Companies

Further Reading and Viewing

References

  1. "The most successful time in his career appears to be a five-year stretch in the late '70s when he owned two retail stores in Berkeley and New York City. Federation Trading Post specialized in Star Trek gear, later expanding into Star Wars. He says People magazine did a story on him during the height of the sci-fi '70s." -- For Star Trek Freaks, Chuck and Sandy Keep the Enterprise Sailing, Archived version
  2. from an ad in "Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter," editor Robert Reiling, Mountain View, CA, v.1, issue 8, October 31, 1975
  3. Remembering The Federation Trading Post, the 1970s NYC Star Trek Mecca; WebCite by Chris Gilleece (February 23, 2017)
  4. the federation trading post east by Doug Drexler, January 31, 2010
  5. from "The Fifty Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History" by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, published in 2016 by St. Martin's Press
  6. Remembering The Federation Trading Post, the 1970s NYC Star Trek Mecca; WebCite by Chris Gilleece (February 23, 2017)
  7. from an ad in "Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter," editor Robert Reiling, Mountain View, CA, v.1, issue 8, October 31, 1975
  8. Dave Needle's One-Of-A-Kind Federation Trading Post Video Game; WebCite, September 4, 2012