Who's watching the store at Scotland Yard Spy Shop?
Who's watching the store at Scotland Yard Spy Shop?
“It’s the mystique,” Currier says, that draws in the curious. Many customers act sheepish at first, and don’t want to be seen on the premises. That’s how Currier was, too, before he bought the place.
“A spy shop,” he breathes, with a tingly, edge-of-your-seat effect that’d be great for narrating a book on tape, or maybe prompting a grandkid to hop into his lap for a story. “People walk in, and they cover half their face.”
Those who muster the guts to explore Scotland Yard find a dazzling and bizarre array of gadgets, gifts and pranks, from incognito stash boxes and high-pitched “sonic assault” devices to flesh-staining powder, fake blood, and little vials of potion that’ll give you horrific diarrhea. Fun. Decorative suits of armor look on, holding court with photos of London’s actual police force and a few pictures from Currier’s days as a marital-arts instructor (he’s a third-degree black belt, for the record, and also loves dancing).
His wife and business partner, Debbie, has claimed a corner of the store for a boutique of her own, Currier’s Kustom Creations—a charmingly incongruous area with silk flowers and delicate gifts.
The big kahuna, however, is the camera collection.
Sophisticated, discreet and a rather stunning to behold, the lot includes lenses built into stuffed animals, sunglasses, jump drives, AC adapters and even a coffee pot. They’re wholly indetectable without a camera locator, which is yet another device you can buy on site. In effect, David says, this makes Scotland Yard a counter-spy shop.
Think on that.
Surveillance is illegal anywhere one could reasonably expect privacy, such as in a bathroom or dressing room, but the onus is obviously on buyers to use equipment properly.
As to who those buyers are, “We don’t appeal to an across-the-board-type customer,” Debbie says. “You just never know.”
When reality-show producers approached them a few years ago, the family didn’t exactly balk, but soon had second thoughts. Their clients are understandably fixated on privacy, and apt to vent and worry aloud about serious personal troubles. It’d never work.
Some are corporate folk, out to quietly buy recording equipment so they can monitor employees they suspect of theft. Others are watching their nannies, or they’re jilted lovers who crave enough evidence to leave. A few, like a woman who comes in wearing real tinfoil under her beanie, may be battling their own demons. Currier won’t identify her or anyone else, however—even for a quick comment in this article—and he refuses to see their problems as sensational or trite.
“This is the most interesting line of work we could have possibly gotten into,” he says solemnly. “We’ve got the craziest stories, and we meet the finest and the craziest people on earth, from all types of life. That about right, Robert?”
He cocks his head toward his son, who’s doing paperwork at a desk, sitting upright in a pressed white shirt. The younger Currier seems a little milder-mannered.
“There’s all types who come through here,” he answers with a polite nod. “Yes.”
Being a good listener is paramount, he explains.
“Sometimes we’re just selling them comfort,” Robert figures, “or an ear to listen to [them].” In any case, “we’re not here to judge.”I, spy
Back in the '90s, when Scotland Yard was under different ownership in a small, understated storefront on Wells Avenue, it was all David could do to make himself go inside. The Fernley resident was a newly retired police officer then, and trying his chops as a private investigator.
That’s not a glamorous job, mind you.
“It’s not really about flying through the streets of Reno with the top down and the guns blazing, chasing the bad guys; It’s more about sitting in a cold, dark car, peeing in a milk carton while you’re surveilling a possible cheating wife or husband,” he admits, cracking himself up again.
“So here I am, becoming a private investigator,” he continues, drawing out the word as if it comes with air quotes and an eye roll. “And I see the spy shop, and I’m thinking, ’What the hell is that?’
“I’m not very sophisticated,” he adds. “I live out in Fernley. I don’t know what’s going on in town. I’m intimidated, but I know I’ve go to go in there.”
He didn’t go through with it that day. The next time he approached the place, he circled around a few times, finally parking in the most remote spot he could find.
“Once I get over the shock of walking in, the awkwardness, the off-balanced [nature of it all], the ’What the hell am I doing here, I don’t need to spy on anybody’” —David is speaking in italics at this point, almost like Chris Farley in one of his dramatic crescendos—“well, then I start looking around.”
He studied cameras hidden in common household appliances, cameras hidden in pens, cameras hidden in eyeglasses—cameras everywhere.
“And I’m going, ’Wow, this is some really cool stuff. ’”
Debbie sees it as a way to help small businesses monitor theft. And above all, she’s humbled by the fact that her work might indirectly protect abused children.
“I just think there’s nothing worse in the whole world than a crime against a child,” she says gently, recalling a customer who drove in from California in 2005. The woman’s boyfriend was a police officer, and she suspected him of molesting her daughter. The local cops were his colleagues, however, and dismissed her pleas for help.
Debbie prizes a thank-you note from that heartbroken mother.
“The nanny cam I bought from you saved my babies [sic] life,” she wrote on plain stationary. “You should feel really good, because I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Sadly, that’s not the only such case that comes to Debbie’s mind.
“If we can protect one child, she says, “or save one child …. .”
Debbie’s own background is in management. She was “very apprehensive,” she says, when her husband broached the subject of running Scotland Yard. But he’d turned passions into livelihoods before —the taekwondo stint, for one—“and I learned through the years that when he wants to do something, he makes it work.”
Robert, 38, attended college in Iowa for baseball, and later mastered in fine arts. The talented watercolorist was working three unrelated jobs, including one in a warehouse, when David and Debbie talked him into joining the family business a decade ago. The rest is history.
“I never saw it coming,” he says in earnest.
“It’s funny,” his dad interjects, “how one chapter in your life will close, and another will open up.”
It can bloom, at that.
“You come see my mom,” Robert says of Debbie’s in-house boutique, “and she’ll make you a silk flower arrangement. You come see us, and we’ll put a camera in it.”