The history of the White Elephant stores mirrors the story of Spokane: A somewhat unconventional place that provides nearly everything that matters at an affordable price.
Outside the Division Street store, the mechanical elephant, which still only costs a dime, is about to offer its last ride.
The Conley family has decided to close its stores in Spokane and Spokane Valley, ending its patriarch’s legacy that started 74 years ago when John R. Conley Sr. started offering Army surplus before converting the business into a sporting goods and toy destination.
The White Elephant was THE toy store of my childhood. Its narrow aisles, crammed shelves, and grease-pencilled prices were the antithesis of a modern box store and only added to its appeal as I grew older. I bought countless Lego sets, tabletop games, model rocketry kits, Transformers, Playmobil sets, and a variety of general sporting goods there over the years. During the winter I still occasionally run in a garish wool stocking cap that I bought at the Spokane Valley store in the early 90s. The original Division street store is quite close to where I work so it's continued to be my go to store if I needed to pickup a fun game, toy or birthday present. My older kids are familiar with it and have shopped there a little bit over the years when they've had money saved up, but I'm bummed out that my youngest three won't really understand. This kind of thing is inevitable, but I'm truly sad to see such a treasured local institution finally close its doors.