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Worcester’s Family Businesses: Halloween Outlet

Friday, June 14, 2013

 

There's nothing scary about being the world's oldest Halloween Superstore... right here in Worcester and all in the family. Christine Arvanigian poses with her mother, Janis.

This year the family-owned Halloween Outlet in Worcester will be celebrating 25 years in business. Halloween Outlet, located on West Boylston Street, is the world's first year-round Halloween Superstore weighing in with over 30,000 square feet of costumes, props and accessories.

The Arvanigian family has attracted customers from around the globe and the store has been featured on The Travel Channel and Chronicle, and were also voted as the #1 overall Halloween shopping experience by the Wall Street Journal. They will be celebrating their achievements with events all summer long.

Beware! Halloween Outlet is not for the faint of heart. This unique superstore has thrills and chills around every corner. The Arvanigian family, however, prides itself upon supreme customer service and has a knowledgeable staff to meet all your needs.

Tell me a little about your family when you were growing up. Were there any entrepreneurs in your family?

My father's side of the family immigrated to American from Armenia. My father's grandfather on his mother's side owned a grocery store and a spa in Worcester. Growing up in an entrepreneurial family meant having to work. Even as a kid, I remember being in the garage at our house in Worcester and removing black ribbon from these plastic reels that my dad recycled for profit. I remember hating it at the time, but according to him those plastic reels were the things putting food on the table. Looking back, it was those types of things that gave me the work ethic I have today.

Can you talk a little bit about what motivated you to found your company?

My parents owned a paper goods store in Worcester where they began selling some Halloween items in October. My dad actually traded a Corvette for Halloween items. They began selling more costumes and accessories than paper towels and toilet paper, so he said to my mom one day, ‘we are going to sell only Halloween costumes all year long. They sold the paper/party goods part of the business and kept the Halloween.

Why did you choose to start a business in Worcester?

My parent's have been life long residents of Worcester and it only made sense to keep their business here in the City.

What makes your business model unique?

The fact that we turned what most perceive as a seasonal business into a year round business. We also tend to keep our store on the scary side, which is something that the other businesses don't do. We really have a fun house atmosphere. We think of ourselves as a haunted attraction that happens to also be one stop shopping for all things Halloween.

Over the years, what development would you say has had the most impact on your original plan? How has your plan changed in response?

I think the original plan was to be a success at whatever we tried to do within the realm of our business. Over the years, we have had up to 10 seasonal locations that would open for 2 months and be gone by Nov 3rd. The phrase pop up store was actually first used to identify seasonal Halloween stores and my parents and Halloween Outlet were at the forefront of that.

What challenges have remained the same since you started?

Staying fresh with ideas as far as how to change the store so it is better than the previous year. People do not want to see the same displays as the previous year at the store. We start working on the redesign in February for Halloween. Our number one question we get asked is "what do you do when it's not Halloween?" And the answer is plenty! We have theatrical makeup, we outfit school age children for school reports or crazy hat day, we sell and rent Santa and Easter Bunny suits. So, there is a lot going on here the other 11 months!

Can you tell me about your engagement and outreach in the community?

We work with various organizations in the city that are geared towards children such as Friendly House and You Inc. We have donated costumes, decor etc and have also done a Halloween Giving Tree where our customers can come in and buy a costume for a child in need. For me, at the helm of the next generation of Halloween Outlet, and also as a mother, I really am looking for opportunities to build relationships with organizations that are helping children and making a positive impact in their lives. My husband and I are also founders of Chefs Feeding Kids, a local nonprofit.

What advice do you have for others who are thinking about entrepreneurship?

If you have a great idea that you are passionate about and are willing to work, work, work -- then go for it!

George Charles Allen is founder of The Worcester Regional Flight Academy and serves on the board of Music Worcester.

 

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