Ana-Laura Galindo pulls her car into its last stop for the day, yet another Walgreens to scour. Her morale is low, but a small glimmer of hope is in her heart as she walks up to the store’s squeaky sliding doors.
She scoots to the back where a treasure trove of kid’s toys and games have been sitting on clearance for who knows how long.
A gasp erupts from Galindo as a small collection of brightly colored stuffed animals, big and small, comes into view on one of the very top shelves: the popular Squishmallows she’d been desperate to find.
The shelf holds a 14-inch stackable lion named Lianne with a neon rainbow mane, a 16-inch smiling calico cat named Cameron, an adorably vibrant 10-inch “Finding Nemo” clownfish, and an 8-inch fawn named Dawn with a snowflake-speckled scarf.
Yes, she’s the one.
Dawn is lifted from the top shelf and carefully cuddled in Galindo’s arms all the way to the register where the plushie is purchased, bagged and ready to join her new brothers and sisters in Galindo’s Horrell Hall apartment.
It’s a good find, especially in such a competitive collectors’ market.
Kellytoy’s Squishmallows took the internet by storm in 2020, and the craze has caused them to sell out online and in stores across the country. More than 82 million of these cuddly creatures have been sold as of May 2021, according to the New York Post.
Even though finding Squishmallows out in the wild has become dramatically difficult since the popularity spike, three Belmont University roommates have managed to collect around 120 of the popular plushies.
Sophomores Ana-Laura Galindo, Becca Preston and Kaliska Schreier say Squishmallows brought them closer together after navigating through their first year of college.
“Becca and I met in May 2020, and she ended up bringing Kali into our little group,” said Galindo. “I only had about four or five Squishmallows at that time, and it was when they were super popular, so they just became a thing for all of us to bond over. We’d literally make day trips out of going to all these Walgreens and looking for Squishmallows.”
Schreier knew little of Squishmallows before she met Galindo and Preston, but the two sucked her into collecting, she said.
“We all have different tastes in which ones we like so it’s cool to connect like that too and show each other which ones we want and find,” said Schreier.
Schreier’s favorite Squishmallow — Tank the hammerhead shark — has since left her collection, given to someone who was an important part of her life.
“I actually gave it to my grandpa when he was very sick, because he loved it so much. He had it until he passed away. The Squishmallows I already have were collected because they remind me of memories I used to have, like that one.”
Galindo’s first Squishmallow was from the Valentine’s Day Squad series and also came in a time of need and healing.
“The first Squishmallow I ever got was actually after a huge mental breakdown,” said Galindo. “Me and my friend drove out to Walgreens and when we got into the store, we saw that they just happened to be having a sale on them. We didn’t really have a clue what they were at that specific time, we just knew they were just super adorable and soft, so we decided to buy some. From there on, I decided to start collecting them and now they’re my favorite things.”
Preston’s favorite Squishmallow is from the Dragon Squad series and was there in a time of a medical emergency.
“I went to the hospital and there was a Squishmallow that was in my car, and I decided to bring it in with me so I could have something to hold on to. Ever since then, that dragon Squishmallow has been a comfort item for me. Every time I look at it, it’s associated with comfort and calming,” said Preston.
Horrell apartment 404 is filled with vibrant, cuddly creatures that’ll bring the smile back to anyone’s face after a long, hard day.
“It definitely looks like a Beanie Baby woman’s house,” said Schreier. “But I have three large Squishmallows that constantly sit on my bed and they’re so comfortable. I can’t lie.”
A giant box sitting in the living room and a small display case filled with Squishmallows give off a welcoming, eclectic vibe that says, ‘You’re safe with us.’
“We have eight shelves that are all organized. We have one for dogs and cats, one for dragons, one for sea life, one for bugs, stuff like that. The 16-inch Squishmallows are all designated to their own little couch. All the trips we’ve taken to get them are so nostalgic and special to us that they need to be displayed,” said Preston.
Galindo took an organized approach to the personal Squishmallows she has in her own room.
“I have an entire shelf with them on it and I have a space dedicated to my Disney ones because the Disney ones are my absolute favorite,” said Galindo. “My huge ones I use as pillows and the Micromallows sit on my windowsill.”
“They light up my room because of how much color they all have. I love it so much.”
Galindo, Preston and Schreier’s store of choice for hunting is Walgreens and even if one of them goes alone, the other two get notified of any findings.
“Walgreens is so amazing. I was there the other day to get my booster shot and I had to call Kali because I found some Squishmallows,” said Galindo.
Walgreens and Kroger started selling exclusives in their stores, and last year, the collectors never missed an opportunity to hunt those special ones down.
“We’ve been to Walgreens way too many times to count,” said Preston. “Our freshman year I was the only one who had a car, so I would drive all of us out to Walgreens and Kroger for like three to five hours. We would listen to music and have so much fun together, and when we did end up finding some, we would get so excited.”
The personal collecting for Galindo has slowed down a bit this school year, but that hasn’t diminished her love for Squishmalllows at all.
“I’ve gotten 20 Squishmallows since I’ve been at Belmont, and I really haven’t been on campus long because of COVID. I think I might stop collecting for a while,” Galindo laughed. “I’ve spent way too much money!”
The Squishmallows’ prices vary by size: the smallest 3.5-inch Squishmallow keychain will cost around $2.99 and a gigantic 24-inch Squishmallow can cost up to $60.
“Yeah, I’ve spent way too much money too,” Preston laughed along with Galindo. “I’ve spent probably over $800 because I bought a lot of them from resellers. My most expensive one was probably about $50 because it was a super rare one and there was also this blue jay I was obsessed with that I spent $40 on because I couldn’t find it anywhere else.”
Schreier has spent about $300, she said, but the price tag on her collection hasn’t stopped her interest in Squishmallows either.
“It may make us seem childish, but we all have such good memories attached to them and the brand that nothing will change our minds about them,” said Preston.
PHOTO: Galindo, Preston and Schreier’s display case in Horrell Hall. Becca Preston.
This article was written by Alexandra Warren.