Spirit Halloween makes hospitals less scary for children each year

By COLBY DENTON
Posted 10/7/18

Each year, Halloween decorations and costumes are expected to pop up somewhere in every city in the country. Spirit Halloween is one of the stores to carrying these items. It is looked forward to by …

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Spirit Halloween makes hospitals less scary for children each year

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Each year, Halloween decorations and costumes are expected to pop up somewhere in every city in the country.

Spirit Halloween is one of the stores to carrying these items. It is looked forward to by countless residents due to its sheer scale, product offerings, changing aesthetic and charitable cause each year.

Spirit pops up in an empty storefront every September, and the past few years, has taken up residence at one of the empty stores at the Bradley Square Mall.

Consignment operator over Arkansas and most of Tennessee, Dave Mendelsohn has seen the franchises grow from 224 stores to 1,400 stores in the span of 12 years.

“We invented the Halloween store. We were the first Halloween store like this and the first superstore before there was over-specialization. We invented the sign waver as well, because we had the costumes to put our wavers into in order to attract attention on the streets,” Mendelsohn said.

 Mendelsohn states they don’t really compete with anyone, but  “do what we do really, really well.” The larger Spirit stores can even include unique experiences, such as a sensory depravation plasma swamp.

“The other guys are selling Halloween costumes, while we are creating Halloween,” he added.

As far as new items go, Spirit is the only place  you can purchase anything with “Fortnite” on it, aside from Spirit’s parent company, Spencer’s. Being a free game, “Fortnite” has risen in popularity exponentially in the past year, and costumes from the game can only be found at Spirit stores. The game itself made $250 million last month alone from in-game purchases like varying skins for characters.

Over 80 percent of Spirit’s products are original creations, and can be identified by the brand emblazoned on the packaging. The store sells masks, costumes, props, decorations and even animatronics, which engage with brave guests who step on the motion pads marked “Step Here.”

Even if Spirit acquires the license to work with copyrighted material such as “Scooby-Doo,” “Star Wars” and “Sesame Street,” Spirit’s teams will work with these companies to create products exclusive to the store.

This year, the film “Hocus Pocus” has exploded in popularity, with the store offering its own line of products. There are also various offerings centered around the Stephen King movie “It,” after the release of the remake in 2017.

Every October, Spirit teams work  to craft a visual experience  different from last year’s. In 2017, a toxic sewer leading to a swamp was chosen. This year, the setting is a cornfield with an abandoned water tower. The background color changes each year as well; last year it was black while this year it’s orange. These colors are selected to complement the year’s chosen aesthetic.

Mendelsohn said Spirit is not a store where they open and have to wait for people to come in; as soon as they open, they already have a mass of people pressed against the windows wanting to see the new products and shop.

Mendelsohn began working with Spirit when trick-or-treating was less popular, due to fears of razors in apples or drugs in candy. He said Halloween used to be only for kids, but thanks to stores like Spirit, it’s now as much for adults as it is for children.

Trends come and go with what’s popular, as zombies were vastly popular several years ago before switching to witches because of the revival of “Hocus Pocus.”

Spirit partners with the local venues in their communities such as the Bradley Square Mall’s Malloween or storybook Saturdays, and also hosts a contest each year that  sends entrants free coupons and enters then in a $10,000 drawing.

Spirit always runs a charitable drive for the local hospital relevant to the region of each store. For Cleveland, donations go to the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville. Known as the Spirit of Children, the charity was formed in 2006 and has become what Mendelsohn describes as the heart and soul of the company.

“We’ve raised $46 million since 2006 and every dime we collect goes to the local hospitals we choose. The criteria we search for isit must be a hospital that’s not-for-profit and won’t refuse anyone under the age of 18 regardless of the ability to pay,” he said. “We make hospitals less scary for children and their families.”

There are two options to donate: you can either purchase a Spirit of Children bracelet or make a donation and get your name on a paper pumpkin displayed on Spirit’s walls.

Spirit hosts 90 massive parties for these hospitals across the country where store managers like Mendelsohn bring a plethora of costumes for the children to choose from for the parties.

Donations don’t go to pay for hospitals’ medical supplies. They go to Child Life Departments that focus on keeping kids happy during their hospital stay. Art departments or therapy nurses may even be brought in through these donations.


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