Halloween conjures innovative partnership
Where can you buy a witch's hat and a chef's toque under the same roof?
The 119 Halloween Store had its grand opening Oct. 6 inside Frank Spicer Co., Norfolk's venerable dealer of restaurant and kitchen equipment.
The costumes and culinary supplies are temporarily sharing space in a unique arrangement masterminded by two small business owners.
Catherine DeMartino, a seasonal costume vendor and local restaurateur, needed a spot to sell her inventory of vampire capes, zombie makeup and Spiderman masks.
Meanwhile, Sandee Spicer had plenty of room at her store on 119 E. Princess Anne Road.
She says the partnership is mutually beneficial: DeMartino gets a home for her Halloween inventory, and Frank Spicer gets potential new customers who might never have entered the business. Though primarily known as a restaurant wholesaler, the store has always been open to the general public, and Spicer welcomes retail business.
"I've already had people calling: 'Oh, I understand you have a Halloween store,' " said Spicer, president of the family-owned company founded in 1965. "Hopefully she'll make some money, I'll make some money."
DeMartino, owner of the Sunset Grill in Norfolk, is a friend and longtime customer of Spicer's. She has sold Halloween costumes and accessories for 16 years, usually setting up shop in and around malls throughout Hampton Roads.
The flat rate to lease space for a month or two typically runs anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000, she says.
This year, however, she lucked out with Spicer's proposal to operate independently in the building on Princess Anne. Throughout October, DeMartino is selling her Halloween products downstairs and storing additional inventory upstairs.
"With the economy the way it was, I wasn't able to afford to go to a huge space and pay that and pay this," DeMartino said. "They offered me the space on their floor. It's a smart thing on both of our parts."
Daniel Byrd, Spicer's husband and manager of the restaurant supply shop, agreed: "We said, you've got the inventory, we've got the space - why don't we consolidate our showroom for the month of October?"
The two businesses are promoting the Halloween store online, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as on billboards around town.
Byrd described the arrangement to the Cox Small Business Navigation Program in a post on The 119 Halloween Store's Facebook wall:
"The partnership is as follows: Cathy has part of a retail storefront to operate The 119 Halloween Shop, and Frank Spicer Co. benefits from the exposure and extra walk-in business," he wrote. "From a larger, seasonal point of view, the increased in-store foot traffic during Halloween is a great way for Frank Spicer Co. to showcase their kitchen supplies to the public prior to Thanksgiving and Christmas."
Spicer described the partnership as "nothing more than bartering."
"It's just helping another small business without any cost, except what it might cost for her telephone lines and credit card lines and payroll," she said.
Both businesses are hoping to attract a new breed of customer: walk-in retail shoppers for Frank Spicer and trendy urbanites for DeMartino.
Frank Spicer Co. is normally open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. However, the business will have extended hours throughout October to accommodate Halloween customers.
The 119 Halloween Store will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Sunday. For more information, visit Frank Spicer's website, "The 119 Halloween Store" on Facebook or "@119Halloween" on Twitter.