Halloween Adventure: A Synopsis

New York Costumes, Halloween Adventure in New York City is perhaps the largest year-round costume store the city has seen. The shop operates on the average 11 am- 8pm workday from Monday to Saturday and 12 pm- 7pm on Sunday. On any given day, one can expect to walk into the shop only to be blown away by the many aisles dedicated to intricate trinkets and larger-than-life costumes. Large selections of masks, props, costumes, wigs, and wild prop and costume rentals decorate the mile-long shelves throughout the store. What’s better? On the lower level, a magic section, equipped with magician paraphernalia and Do-It-Yourself magic trick handy-guides, suit an aspiring magician’s fantasies.

The shop was originally founded as a series of pop-up shops across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York in 1981 and continued to operate for approximately twenty years. Today, alongside a mother-shop in New York City, pop-up shops have expanded into Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland. The shop’s current manager began his career by establishing pop-up shops throughout the Lower East Side of New York City, up until the late 1990’s. Afterwards, the business found its current home in Union Square, where it continues to draw in the masses, whether it be Halloween or not. Today, one can notice the many mirrors lining the walls of the shop, paying homage to the past business that was housed by Halloween Adventure’s current site.

At the permanent shop in New York City, customers are welcomed by a myriad of masks that celebrate horror, including the faces of popular characters such as Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers, and some which satirically poke fun at political figures. While the novelty section dedicated to Donald Trump is a section worth taking a look, perusing the aisles might lead customers to get lost in the shop’s creative atmosphere. For instance, foot-high boots and large blow-up dolls of popular animated characters portray the shop’s large inventory. Upon traveling further into the shop, sections dedicated to toddler’s costumes and novelty items, such as mustaches and whoopee cushions, attract customers. It’s rather hard to not put on a hat or large pair of glasses and strike a pose. The bottom floor of the shop is dedicated to promiscuous costumes and colorful tutus. In all, Halloween Shop can serve anyone’s random costuming needs. 

A Brief History & Science Behind Year-Round Halloween Retail in NYC

Halloween Adventure sets a very distinct precedent for Halloween retail in a city like New York. Opened by the graces of Bianchi in 1981, the store has been and continues to serve as the largest selection of costume and costume-related goods (yes, this is a legitimate term in the eccentric world that is Halloween commerce), including wigs, masks, props, and décor. The undeniably incongruous yet somehow seamless design of the shop reflects upon a gift for curation in Bianchi, and of course, his staff – many of whom have been employed there for upwards of a decade. Perhaps the loyalty of Bianchi’s team speaks to a rather historical edge possessed by Halloween Adventure and only Halloween Adventure: the shop is unique in both its diverse collection of products and its accessibility, in terms of year-roundedness.

For the sake of context, here’s a summation of the rather worldly history of Halloween culture. Its genesis can be traced back two thousand years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, in what is today Ireland. People lit bonfires and wore costumes, all culminating in efforts to ward away any looming spirits (a nicer phrase than “ghosts,” as not all of them are evil). Celts presumably considered the occasion more of a ritual than a holiday, which can be further proven by its timing: the air transforms from that of warmth and new life to that of iciness and death. When Halloween arrived in America, it was less common in Protestant colonies (including today’s New York), but burgeoning in non-Protestant colonies, mostly in the south (and Maryland). Interestingly enough, the wave of Irish immigrants that came to America in the latter half of the nineteenth century as a result of Ireland’s devastating potato famine greatly helped to popularize the holiday on a national basis.

It is important to consider, whilst pondering the curious existence of a year-round shop that serves a once-a-year purpose, the environment wherein the shop serves its customers. For Halloween Adventure, home is Manhattan – more specifically, the northern region of the East Village (neighboring Union Square). This is an area of heightened commercialization, so much so that it has become inseparable from its identity. A particularly amazing feat, as it resides in a city already known for its inherently commercial nature. The month of October, according to Bianchi, is one characterized by its all-hands-on-deck temperament (for obvious reasons); however, the remaining eleven months each ring in their fair shares of revenue and require at least six or seven pairs of hands. (Note: fake-bloodied, rubber hands do not count. See below.)

Halloween Adventure’s success is unquestionable, especially after taking into account the outrageous rent for a space in such a hustling, bustling, money-making area of Manhattan. The shop’s year-round triumph can be accredited to three preponderant factors: its uniquely diverse inventory, its location, and the ever-changing realm of popular culture. There are other halloween specialty shops in New York, of course – but this one accomplishes something pretty remarkable: it retains its small business feel while dominating a market just festering with big, booming businesses. This is not exclusive to the realm of Halloween, which is a wide enough realm as it is, but instead extends to the general realm of commerce in an area that is the very definition of commercialized. Its ability to not only survive, but to thrive, in a highly competitive region on a highly competitive street (it is surrounded by lingerie shops, movie theaters, and record stores – a varying range of business attracting many a consumer) is quite…supernatural. (Ba dum tss.)

Head Honcho: Tony Bianchi

Artist Tony Bianchi is the creative visionary and mastermind behind one of the greatest costume shops New York City has seen to this day. Nineteen years before the conception of Halloween Adventure, Tony fostered his technique in mask-making, as well as sculpting. As an artist, Tony explored his ability to design faces and dabbled with the art form, leading him to eventually string together his own line of masks of sculptures. Tony’s art was found and taken to kindly, as one viewer actually gave Tony the idea of opening up a store to share his talents with a larger audience. Tony’s initial line of masks started off as drawings, paying homage to horror and gory movies, considering that such movies receive a great deal of attention. As an artist for over thirty-years, Tony has seen the shift in businesses adapting to serve a more modern population. While the move from small pop-up shops to a permanent business was met with challenges, Tony was still able to practice his art form. Today, however, he has noticed that the Halloween business has become more competitive than when it was in the early 1990’s. Platforms such as Amazon have become an unlikely competitor to the fantasy world that Tony has long been a fan of. With today’s ability to access next-day shipping on nearly any item, Amazon threatens independent shops, keeping Halloween Adventure on its toes. In addition, popular cinema releases have also influenced which products Halloween Adventure sells. “The problem is that there is too much information out there, which leads to manipulation,” says Tony. Consumer culture has shifted in large part due to demands for particular items increasing. As a result, Tony feels that “it is not as much fun as it used to be.” From sexy women costumes to fish nets, the Halloween business has witnessed great changes. For instance, taking into account the recent clown craze, the shop increased its inventory of clown masks. In addition, Tony notes that its similar to the toy industry, “whatever toy is popular, that’s what we sell.” On the other hand, a very unlikely threat to his business is children. Upon his past supervisor resigning from her job, she remarked, “I am sick of wiping asses all day.”

Despite the current threats to his business, Tony is still sticking to his love of mask-making and science fiction. Around the months of September and October, Halloween Adventure continues to see a great number of patrons. “It gets really intense,” remarks Tony. In all, Tony appreciates that science fiction continues to provide consumers with the chance to escape into what isn’t real.

Popular Culture and Its Impact on the Halloween Business

It’s no surprise that popular culture dominates the many choices consumers make, from the music we listen to or the celebrities we follow. While the track popular culture is headed on is rather predictable, the combination of ideas and attitudes has influenced what shops sell today. We are living in a period characterized by diverse, awesome, addictive, and larger-than-life entertainment in the current world of pop culture. To better understand the concept, pop culture can be recognized as a blend of ideas, images, attitudes, and feelings that characterize a given culture, define what is meant by “modern,” and are widely held and accepted by the mainstream population, especially the youth. Because popular culture encompasses what is trending among the mainstream population, the concept has the power to influence what shops sell, particularly independent shops. Pop culture has been influenced by the baby boomer generation who attempted to invigorate the pop culture revolution through their disposable income and their attempts to redefine what was accepted as art and how it was created. Some of the popular categories of pop culture include sports, news/broadcasts, politics, slang, technology, clothing, music, television series, media platforms, movies, and video games. In the modern world, pop culture has undergone tremendous changes caused by the increased technological advancement. Seemingly, everyone is driven to like pop culture. It is greatly influenced by the media and penetrates all the elements of a society.

Pop culture has the potential of influencing people’s attitudes towards certain topics. Therefore, popular culture has also influenced storefront shops in order to adapt to modern times. The influence of American television has not only influenced globalization, but also shops such as Halloween Adventure. For instance, the business must prepare and adapt to the trends of the time. If a new Batman is being received widely by the masses, Halloween Adventure is likely to increase its stocks of Batman masks and costumes. While the influence of popular culture is significant, it has also jaded the authenticity of independent shops, polarizing the masses influenced by popular culture away from shops unless they carry popular merchandise. Therefore, artists such as Tony Bianchi must adapt their craft, losing its personal touch. As opposed to creating characters, Tony now orders clown masks to serve populations’ interests.

The Advent of Amazon & the Advantages of the Internet

Amazon was founded on July 5th, 1994. This is thirteen years after Halloween Adventure’s debut, and a mere four years after the invention of the World Wide Web. Of course, Amazon altered the world of business. It altered more worlds than one: worlds of transparency, accessibility, and affordability, to name a few. But that of business is arguably the most severely impacted, as Amazon is the world’s largest internet company by the margin of revenue.

According to Bianchi, Amazon draws a range of reactions analogous to the diversity of merchandise available in Halloween Adventure. For the consumer, it is miraculous. For the manager, the business owner, the entrepreneur? Fear-inspiring. New technologies have greatly challenged businesses like Bianchi’s: niche shops that consumers frequent for specific purposes lose their pull, as anything and everything can be shipped to most latitudes/longitudes. Bianchi even refers to Steve Jobs as an “evil genius,” alluding specifically to his devotion to the touch screen smart phone. He specifically highlights how incredible it is that Jobs managed to cater to something so intrinsically human – our sense of touch – and revolutionized the way we interact with each other, our surroundings, and especially ourselves…all things that culminate to the way in which we live. Bianchi speaks adamantly on how the Internet Age has affected character by the masses, which inevitably affects business, as business deals directly with people. He asserts that a person is no longer just a person when they spend a significant amount of time curating a certain image on a multitude of social media platforms. It can be paralleled to dressing in costume. Presentations of character often superficial, simulated. They also tend to be capricious.

The Internet’s equally capricious essence can also serve as a friend to businesses, but only to those that accommodate popular culture. Luckily, Halloween Adventure does exactly that. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Vine (although recently discontinued) help to promote the whatever or whomever is viral and iconic. Bianchi tells us of a Vine had been particularly lucrative for the shop: a father is driving his child, singing a funny song about the minivan becoming the Batmobile. It didn’t take long for parents to start shuffling into the shop, buying Batman masks and capes by the dozen. It wasn’t long before Bianchi had to order more of each.

There is also something to be said for the fleeting popular culture of politics. This year’s election, understandably so, has served Halloween Adventure quite well in terms of profits. “Make America Great Again” hats, as well as Trump, Melania, and Putin masks (the super rubbery kind) are top sellers, even months after Trump’s inauguration. Unsurprisingly, it is part of Bianchi’s regular restocking to order more of those hats. The product has the potential to last as a popular item for the entirety of Trump’s presidency, and is likely to continue as such even after he leaves office. It is amazing how the presence of popular culture has served almost as a type of sponsor to the shop. Because it will never cease to exist, it is a backbone to the shop’s year-roundedness.

A BOO-tiful Business

Halloween Adventure may be described as a niche shop, the niche at hand being Halloween. Much of its beauty, however, can be derived from the fact that it provides something for everyone – from whichever neighborhood, near or far.


Writology, I. What is Pop Culture Today? May 30, 2017, from https://writology.com/blog/what-is-pop-culture-today.html

All photos were taken by Sophia and Harry.

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