NY Halloween stores thrive during the pandemic

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Steven Depolo

Steven Depolo | The Jet Stream Journal

Gabriel Rivera, Science & Technology Editor

Although businesses across New York City have been stifled by the pandemic, the Halloween season has provided some with much needed respite.

Because of the lockdowns, many people were unsure of how they would be able to celebrate Halloween this year. However, with the holiday only a week away, people are preparing to celebrate safely and are supporting Halloween-centric stores in the process.

Spirit Halloween, whose pop-up shops are highly associated with the month of October, has not had business slow down during the pandemic. The retail chain has opened stores at over 1,400 locations nationwide, a number that exceeds last year’s totals, according to the company.

The chain’s success at a time when other household names continue to close their doors can be attributed to their unique business strategy. Spirit Halloween “is out of step with most normal retail concepts,” Andy Mantis, a retail analyst from 1010Data, said.

In turn, Spirit Halloween has so far generated much-needed revenue. “Covid-19 driven temporary retail closures earlier in the year did nothing to hurt their sales outlook,” Mantis noted.

Small businesses that thrive on the Halloween season, however, have been walking a tightrope throughout this pandemic. While trying to navigate losses, these local Halloween enthusiasts have had to operate despite the uncertain future of the holiday.

This caused major problems for local businesses like Ulster County’s Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses, who usually begin preparing their frightful experience for customers well in advance.

“I work on this all 365 days,” Michael Jubie, owner of Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses, said. “We start working on next year’s theme during October of this year.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the holiday, these local businesses have found ways to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions and ensure the frights will go on safely.

Center Moriches’ annual Spooky Walk has become a favorite among local community members and has been a mainstay for over 30 years. The event is made possible by hundreds of dedicated community volunteers and has raised over two million in funds for the local summer camp for children with physical and mental disabilities.

While COVID-19 restrictions have endangered the outlook of the event this year, volunteer organizers have developed a unique way to keep the tradition going.

“It’s such a big event, we can’t lose it. So, I decided let’s do a drive-thru. We have the property, let’s do it,” Marcella Weiss, organizer of the Spooky Walk, said. “I hope kids can go trick-or-treating, but at least we’re giving them a form of the Spooky Walk.”

Jubie and his business have also altered his attractions to adhere to health guidelines, replacing their annual hayride with a Drive-Thru Haunted Experience.

Several of these local attractions have also implemented the standard safety precautions recommended since the early stages of the pandemic, such as social distancing, face masks and hand sanitizing stations.

Although numerous states have witnessed major upticks in coronavirus cases, many of these businesses are witnessing an increased demand for tickets to their attractions.

“I believe people are starved for great entertainment options now with so many limitations due to the virus,” D.R. Finley, the owner of Bayville Scream Park, said.

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo refused to enforce a ban on trick-or-treating, health experts agree the traditional way of collecting candy is not the safest activity to partake in.

Instead, the CDC recommends attending outdoor activities such as Halloween-themed scavenger hunts, visiting pumpkin patches and walking through haunted forests to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

These guidelines will influence families to support local businesses in need of help while getting some seasonal chills and thrills.