Halloween stores irk local business owners

Susan Du

In a city devoted to commercial self-sustainability, several Evanston business owners are concerned seasonal Halloween stores do not contribute enough to the local economy.

National franchise Spirit Halloween opened at 1700 Maple Ave. last month. It is currently the only entirely Halloween-themed business in Evanston, with its nearest competitors located in Morton Grove and Skokie.

Though there are no Evanston small businesses dedicated specifically to selling Halloween costumes and decorations, some local store owners have expressed wariness of Spirit Halloween.

Avis Behling, manager of Affordable Portables furniture store, 924 Davis St., said she doesn’t mind the seasonal store, but doubts it helps boost the local economy.

“They always seem like carnivals,” Behling said. “They just open and then they close. I think they just go for the least expensive, largest empty space available. I don’t know if they have much of a stake (in the community) at all.”

Behling said it’s convenient to have Spirit Halloween when there are no other alternatives for Halloween products, but she would prefer to support local businesses.

“I have gone to these stores and purchased these things,” she said. “But I wonder if I’m making a mistake of not going to an established, long-term store.”

Isadore Palmas, Spirit Halloween manager, said the store contributes to the local commercial culture just as any business would.

“Employees are pretty much whoever applies to this location, but they’re mostly locals,” Palmas said.

Other business owners maintain Spirit Halloween is detrimental to certain local stores that are not entirely Halloween-themed but may carry Halloween crafts and decorations.

Shaun Chinsky, Evanston Chamber of Commerce member, said he couldn’t speak for the chamber because members haven’t discussed seasonal stores, but believes as a local businessman that national franchises like Spirit Halloween are problematic.

Chinsky said he feels lucky because his framing business, Good’s of Evanston, 714 Main St., doesn’t have competition in the form of national chain stores.

“I’ve seen similar things around the neighborhood, and I know it upsets people,” Chinsky said. “You sell things year-round and to have someone come in and compete for revenue within a short period. Philosophically, I think it’s a problem.”

Chinsky said the Chamber of Commerce hasn’t discussed how to reach out to seasonal Halloween stores because the organization primarily serves “people who invest in the community.”

“(Temporary stores) sort of have an unfair advantage in that they don’t have all the carrying costs that regular business have to do business through the year,” he added. “Evanston is a community that really does support local businesses. If there’s a community where it would be difficult to succeed (as a temporary store), it would be Evanston.”

Although other Evanston businesses haven’t sought to include Spirit Halloween in collective marketing efforts, Palmas said other stores in the Chicago metropolitan area have worked alongside local businesses to increase sales for everyone.

“We do cross-promotion type things,” Palmas said. “I mean, it would be a good thing for us and for them.”

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Editor’s note: This article incorrectly stated Shaun Chinsky’s position in the Evanston Chamber of Commerce. The article has been updated to reflect his correct title. The Daily regrets the error.