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Halloween stores popping up everywhere - even right behind you
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Halloween stores popping up everywhere - even right behind you

Halloween stores have been popping up left and right and even — dun dun — right behind you.

Seasonal Halloween costume shops have again rolled into the Region, haunting vacant storefronts for a few months to give adults and kids the chance to dress up as ghosts, ghouls and almost anything you can imagine.

"The Halloween stores have been around for years and just rent during the holiday season. Their leases typically commence typically around August and end a few weeks after Halloween," said Aaron McDermott, president of Crown Point-based Latitude Commercial. "They are nice little short term leases for big-box vacancies. I would say because of the high margins in this product and all the last-minute shopping, the Amazon impact has only a small impact on them. This is the type of thing a lot of people want to see in person, as well to make sure it fits."

Halloween City, Spirit Halloween, Halloween Land and other pop-up shops have sprung up in Northwest Indiana shopping centers like spooky Brigadoons — here today, gone tomorrow.

"Seasonal retail stores are typically 90-day leases that help bring in some cash flow and generate foot traffic for other co-tenants in a shopping center," said David Lasser with Merrillville-based Commercial In-Sites. "Seasonal use examples are Halloween, Christmas and fireworks. With a few more vacancies due to retail shifts to online shopping, it is easier for seasonal retailers to find willing owners than when occupancy rates were higher."

New York-based Party City is hiring about 17,000 people nationwide for the seasonal rush as it ramps up for a busy Halloween season. The chain is boosting staffing at its stores in Highland, Merrillville, Valparaiso and Calumet City and its Halloween City pop-ups, including in the former Marshall's at 10429 Indianapolis Boulevard in the Highland Grove shopping center in Highland and in the former Bed, Bath and Beyond at 2520 E. 79th Ave. in Merrillville.

"We're both excited and proud to welcome new team members to the Party City team for the Halloween season, and beyond," said Brad Weston, president and CEO at Party City. "We have the unique privilege of being able to inspire joy and make celebrations possible — whether they will be in person, at a distance, or virtual — at a time when the nation is craving them more than ever, and I know our employees across the country take that mission to heart. This is a special team to be part of, particularly this time of year, and I'm excited to be growing it by thousands of new employees, many of whom will continue on after the season and enjoy career opportunities with us."

Spirit Halloween, which bills itself as the world's largest specialty Halloween retailer, plans to hire 35,000 people this Halloween season at more than 1,425 Spirit Halloween stores, which it boasts have the most "bone-chillingly cool animatronics this side of Crystal Lake."

This year, Spirit Halloween is opening stores selling costumes, decor and accessories at 1525 U.S. 41 in Schererville, 3901 Franklin St. in Michigan City, 17810 S. Halsted St. in Homewood and 1500 Pilgrim Lane in Plymouth. It moved to a new location in the Crossroads Shopping Center by Strack & Van Til in Schererville instead of its traditional spot in the former Ashley Home Furniture storefront across the street.

"It's a competitive job landscape and we know candidates are looking for opportunities where they can learn and grow, while also having fun in a collaborative and high-energy environment," said Steven Silverstein, CEO at Spirit Halloween. "At Spirit Halloween, we live and breathe Halloween 365 days a year, our associates' passion and dedication are what got us through the most challenging year in recent history and we are looking for team members to join us in celebrating what we anticipate to be the spookiest Halloween ever while experiencing the excitement that Spirit brings to all of its locations."

Spirit Halloween has been around for 37 years and operates an online business year-round. It typically doesn't have a brick-and-mortar presence until September. This year, it's opening a store in Michigan City for the first time.

Costume World at 809 Franklin St. in Michigan City's Uptown Arts District is the last full-time dedicated costume shop left standing in Northwest Indiana. It provides costume rentals for masquerade balls, murder mysteries, Renaissance fairs, Titanic dinners and parties year-round. It gets busy renting out costumes for Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick's Day and the Michigan City Fourth of July parade. Many parents rent superhero costumes like Spider-Man, Batman and Captain America throughout the year for their kids' birthday parties.

But Halloween is, of course, the busiest season.

"We got our first rental reservation today," owner Sue Copeland said last week. "We have more than 1,200 rentals. These are nice costumes, theater-quality, not the $50 package costumes."

Costumes like pirates, flappers, 1920s gangsters and Victorian figures remain perennially popular. Copeland expects Baby Yoda and Cruella De Vil will be popular this year because of recent Disney+ shows along with The Addams Family and Clifford the Big Red Dog as new movies are coming out.

"We're starting to get lookers," she said. "The last two weeks get really crazy."

Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, so Costume World expects an uptick in business as people will need costumes for parties on Friday and Saturday nights. Costume World rents out costumes by the day, charging an extra fee if people want to keep them for longer.

"A few years ago, the sexy costumes were extremely popular but that died down," she said. "I don't know if people are getting them online or if that trend slowed down because of the COVID. A lot more people are buying online. When we opened 30 years ago, we had a lot of competition from costume shops. But the last one left in Crown Point closed three years ago. There's still one left in South Bend as far as I know."

Copeland doesn't rely solely on the costume shop. She also has a real estate business and runs the Rainbow Trades antique store in the same business. It recently added a man cave section that proved popular.

Despite the rise of seasonal Halloween pop-up shops, some people still prefer a traditional costume store so they can try on the costumes ahead of time and see how they look.

"These are nice costumes people can reserve ahead of time," she said. "We steam them and sew them up if they get ripped in the dressing room. They're nice and have often won costume contests, often at the Blue Chip Casino."

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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