There is a specific time of year where wedding bells turn to school bells, tans fade, and the puddles at our feet remind us that the months filled with holiday mania are just around the corner. It seems to be a universal truth that as we get older, sometimes we have to really dig deep within ourselves, and our pockets, to feel the same holiday spirit we took for granted when we were younger.
Beloved traditions help guide us through this time filled with a lot of sugar and social obligations. One of my favorite traditions and indicators that the holiday season truly is upon us has been visiting Spirit Halloween, the country’s largest Halloween retail chain that first opened its doors in 1983. Now owned by Spencer’s Gifts, the franchise continues to be a seasonal operation with over a thousand stores scattered across North America from roughly mid-August to early November each year.
There are three Spirit Halloween stores in our district alone, located at the Gateway shopping mall, Valley River Center, and the Big Y area off the 99 Highway.
This past year, I was weighed down with worldly responsibilities when I first realized Spirit Halloween was finally open. The moment I stepped inside the store, my worries washed away as I was overwhelmed instead by a blast of Halloween nostalgia. I walked out nearly an hour later with a bag of costume accessories in one hand and a job application in the other.
Normally the idea of a part-time seasonal retail job would not interest me, but there are no costume shops in our community, and a 30% employee discount appealed to my inner performer.
I have since been promoted to assistant manager and have spent many hours rearranging displays and stocking merchandise. I thought a part of me would be bored with these seemingly mindless tasks, but I genuinely look forward to my time spent in this store that has taken so much of my money over the years.
As I wander the aisles rearranging costumes and quietly singing along to the world’s weirdest playlist, I take special notice of the people who also seem to enjoy just existing inside of the store – even if they do not plan on purchasing anything.
A couple once got lost in a fit of laughter as they cradled a zombie baby in their arms. A group of women took a 40-minute road trip just to pick out the perfect costumes in person. The busiest of parents seem to enjoy watching their kids run through the aisles, indecisive about what they want to be for Halloween.
Even more fascinating than the joyful customers are my colleagues – many of whom have come back to work at Spirit Halloween year after year in spite of its seasonal status. Most of us seem to share a special fondness for the store that we contribute more than just an honest day’s work. We seem to collectively harness the parts of Halloween that we love and pass that along in the form of costume advice, knowledge of popular culture, and genuine smiles.
In particular my district manager, Taylor-Linn Humbert, has stood out to me as someone who considers Spirit as not just a paycheck but, in her words, “a real family.” With a bubbly personality and a sincere passion for spooky season, she has made it her responsibility to make sure that the spirit of the holiday can be felt in each one of her stores.
Dressed in full costume, Taylor was filled with pride as she spoke of the company she has now worked at for six years. She emphasized the excitement and thrill of the unknown that comes with each season filled with brand-new employees, costume trends, and merchandise surprises.
A point of pride near and dear to Humbert’s heart is the Spirit of Children program that began in 2007. Each year, all Spirit Halloween locations ask customers to donate to the pediatric departments of participating local hospitals, and 100% of these donations go directly to children and their families to pay for technology, toys, parties, therapy programs, and really anything else that could help make the hospitals a little less scary.
For our specific district, all of the money goes to the children’s department at the Peacehealth Medical Center on Riverbend Drive. Since 2010, the community has collectively raised close to $115,000 for the hospital’s children department. As someone who has witnessed first hand what it’s like to have her daughter in the NICU, Taylor knows how big a difference the money can make to the affected families.
One of the many reasons why she loves working for Spirit is the opportunity she gets each year to personally visit sick children in the hospitals alongside other Spirit managers to bring some Halloween cheer. “It is bittersweet, but it is worth it.”
Taylor feels as though the stores represent something even bigger than just a one-stop shop for Halloween needs.“When people come to Spirit Halloween, I want them to remember that they really can be anything they want to be.”
Enchanted by her enthusiasm, I continue to be in awe of the importance that this store has held in our lives and the lives of people around me. Whether you are a fan of Halloween or not, there really is a special energy that these stores seem to contain that is unlike any other.
Spirit Halloween seems aptly named for the amount of spirit it truly seems to bring others at a time we need it the most.