Cynthia Marie, owner of Highway 2 Collectibles & Imports in Sultan, started out with more than 100 retro pay phone booths that people have bought to use for things such as yard art, movie sets and outhouses. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Cynthia Marie, owner of Highway 2 Collectibles & Imports in Sultan, started out with more than 100 retro pay phone booths that people have bought to use for things such as yard art, movie sets and outhouses. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Requiem for pay phones: Bring $100 bills, not dimes

Man caves, outdoor showers or outhouses are just 3 possible uses for the retro booths in Sultan.

Just when you thought public pay phones were on the verge of extinction …

On this busy stretch of U.S. 2 in Sultan there’s a whole herd.

What’s up with that?

It’s a phone booth revival.

Bring $100 bills, not dimes.

You can take one home.

Vintage blue-and-white GTE and Frontier booths start at about $250, graffiti included.

Booths equipped with empty phone book holders cost more.

A few even have pay phones. Those cost way more.

Of course, they don’t work, but the booths do.

“You can talk on your cell phone and be out of the rain,” said Cynthia Marie, owner of Highway 2 Collectibles & Imports.

Her security guard is Willy, a Norwich terrier dressed in camo.

Marie wears tie-dye. So can you. Inside is a selection of tees, along with skull biker rings, CBD oils, Coke machines, pink flamingo kitsch, antiques and acquisitions.

She and her four-legged sidekick live next to the shop.

“An old-fashioned ma-and-pa kind of thing,” she calls it.

Or, in this case, ma-and-paws.

Highway 2 Collectibles & Imports has a large selection of pay phone booths, biker skull rings, CBD oils, kitsch and antiques.(Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Highway 2 Collectibles & Imports has a large selection of pay phone booths, biker skull rings, CBD oils, kitsch and antiques.(Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Marie bought the place six years ago. The 59-year-old grandmother previously owned a dozen stores from Leavenworth to Poulsbo, a motel and an espresso stand. You can pick up a copy of her tell-all book, “The Barista Diary,” in her shop for $8.

She changed the names in the book, including hers.

She now goes by her middle name as her last name. “I got rid of all my last names,” she said.

Her husband count rivals Elizabeth Taylor.

Three years ago, Marie bought about 65 phone booths and 40 unenclosed phone kiosks. It was a truckload sale from a phone company.

“I saw an ad and called and had to have them,” she said. “They are just such a retro thing.”

She’s plunked plenty of change in those money-grubbing contraptions, talking fast before the metered time ran out. “I remember going, oh, my god, we’re going to get hung up on,” she said.

The phone kiosks start at about $225. She keeps them behind the store. They aren’t as Superman-sexy as the booths and are easier to steal.

A booth weighs about 150 pounds.

“They have sold for so many crazy reasons,” she said. “Lots of man caves. I just sold one for an outdoor urinal. She goes, ‘OK, now my husband doesn’t have to come in the house anymore.’”

Store owner Cynthia Marie in one of her phone booths for sale. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Store owner Cynthia Marie in one of her phone booths for sale. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

She sells the booths on eBay and craigslist. She’s shipped them for movie sets and a Vegas show.

A pickup truck is advised for transport.

“One hippie guy came by and picked one up in a Jeep and it hung way out,” she said. “He was taking it up to his cabin for an outdoor shower.”

David Heap bought a phone booth from Marie for his 5-acre property in Sultan.

“I needed yard art,” he said.

It turned into a maternity ward. Robins made a nest in the spot formerly occupied by a phone book. He installed a bird cam.

Heap, 56, has fond memories of fishing out change left behind in pay phones as a kid to buy Bazooka bubble gum back in the day.

“I remember finding dimes and nickels. With a quarter, you were golden,” he said.

Marie has other items that cater to nostalgia. How about a pair of white, mid-century space-age egg chairs with blue cushions and speakers?

Soon the herd of phone booths will have company.

“I’m getting 10 metal 6-foot Bigfoots,” Marie said. “And 6-foot roosters. That is going to be exciting.”

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

Phone booths & pink flamingos

Highway 2 Collectibles & Imports, 31716 U.S. 2, is usually open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Best to call first: 360-348-2097.

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