Trip to the Spy Store: Semi-Pervy Espionage Spot With African Roots
|Photo by Angelica Leicht|
While we were studying the cap on the dummy's head, the woman left without making a sound. The investigator leaned back in his chair and asked a few questions (why we were there, what we were after, the usual). We then asked a few of our own. The owner, Sidney May, was out of the country, off in Nigeria, but he would get us in touch with him, the investigator said. Another woman slid through the door, saw us, stopped and silently waited. We took our cue and made for the exit. "That place smells like tears and broken dreams," a friend muttered as we walked out the door.
May called later and filled us in on his store. Spy Emporium (slogan: "The shop that creates spies") was opened in 1990 by Leo May, an African immigrant. He got interested in spy technology while he was studying electrical engineering, and then he ditched the moving company he had created and started Spy Emporium. Leo went back to Africa, and his son Sidney took over the store in 2009.
"People say this is a great store for criminals, but we don't cater to that," May told us in an official-sounding voice. Criminals could have a great time with some of this stuff, of course, but the main clients are the same as the ones who used to creep through the doors in all those Raymond Chandler stories, besides the criminals -- husbands suspicious of wives, wives tracking husbands, significant others who want to know what the one they're with is up to. "Sometimes the husband will come in and buy a bunch of stuff and then the wife will come in, too," Sidney said. "They'll both pay cash and spy on each other."