By BRYAN CORLISS
MARYSVILLE — Autumn always has been a dead time for Andrea O’Brien’s accounting business. Four years ago she decided to cash in on it.
Now she sells spook spells at Halloween stores.
O’Brien is the owner of Planet Halloween Superstores, an Edmonds-based chain of seven stores that specializes in costumes, creatures and all things creepy.
The stores are only open in September and October, but O’Brien said it’s turning into a full-time gig.
"We work on buying from January to June," she said. "We start receiving (inventory) in June."
When O’Brien started her first store, it was the one Halloween-only shop in Snohomish County. It seems to be an expanding niche market, she said. This year, there are two competitors in Everett: Halloween Supply on Everett Mall Way, and Spirit Halloween, a subsidiary of Spencer Gifts, along Evergreen Way.
Meanwhile, O’Brien has expanded from her Edmonds base with stores in Marysville and Monroe in Snohomish County, along with others around the Puget Sound region.
It’s not your typical retail business, O’Brien said.
For starters, there’s the problem of securing leases. Most commercial landlords are looking for long-term tenants, not someone who will come and go in two months.
Convincing them to lease short term is "difficult, very difficult," she said. "It’s probably the most difficult thing."
And running the stores is different too, O’Brien said. There’s a big entertainment factor involved: Shoppers, children especially, come in looking for a scary little thrill.
O’Brien tries to oblige. Planet Halloween sells an electronic skeleton that "talks," thanks to a wireless microphone. Marysville store manager Dick Petrino said he likes to find out the names of children shopping in the store with their parents, then make the skeleton call out to them.
"The look on their faces is priceless," he said.
Halloween is big business, O’Brien said. It has surpassed Valentine’s Day as the second-most-shopped-for holiday, largely, she maintains, because it’s low-key and fun.
You celebrate Halloween by dressing up and going to parties, and taking your kids to get candy, O’Brien explained.
"You don’t have to have a big family dinner party," she said. "We just have fun. That’s all it is. It’s fun. It’s dress up."
O’Brien hasn’t given up on the accounting business, which her husband handles full time. But the Halloween shops are much more fun, she said.
"It’s much different than a CPA practice," she laughed. "The clients coming in there are not as happy."
Indeed, going to see the accountant … now that’s scary.
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