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Halloween Land opens for business in The Landings shopping center

New Lansing location is ready for the holiday—and looking to hire employees they can retain year round

by Jennifer Yos

LANSING, Ill. (September 20, 2019) – Every September Halloween stores pop up in strip malls throughout the country, reminding us that the popular October 31st holiday—Halloween—is soon approaching. Halloween retail spending in the U.S. last year was estimated to have reached $9 billion, according to a Prosper Insights & Analytics survey commissioned by the National Retail Federation.

Who are the people who run these seasonal businesses, and what do they do for the rest of the year? Halloween Land—advertised as a costume superstore—recently opened in The Landings in Lansing. General manager Zaki Said was happy to share his knowledge about the challenges of operating a successful seasonal business and about how this particular family-owned and -operated business came to be.

An animated Pennywise, the dancing clown and title character from Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel It, stands ready to entertain customers near the store entry. (Photo: Jennifer Yos)

The family business

Said’s uncle, Jose Medina, and Jose’s son Mike Medina (Said’s cousin), began their private, family-owned Halloween business 10 years ago as a complementary business to Jose’s already well-established toy business, which he started 25 years ago. The Medina family own and operate B Toy Zone stores—located in the Chicagoland Midway area—and Zippy Toys in Fox Valley Mall.

They envisioned opening a Halloween store to fill the gap immediately following the toy business’s slow season and just before the heavy Christmas season. This gap occurs in the month of October, so they created Halloween Land.

Today they operate three Halloween Land stores. One is located at 7601 S. Cicero Avenue, and another is at 4632 W. Diversey Avenue—both in Chicago—and now a third is the new Lansing location, 16839 Torrence Avenue. The Lansing location is new this year, but Halloween Land has operated in various locations in and around Lansing for the last five years.

The seasonal time constraints

Said shared some of what he has learned in his five years’ experience as General Manager of his family’s seasonal business. “It takes a lot of preparation. People think seasonal business is really easy to get into, but it’s the complete opposite. There’s a lot of time and effort that goes into it. Specifically, you’re trying to get all this stuff ready just for one month, so the things that we do—like sourcing the product, talking to different venders—obviously you want to get the best deal for your money—scouting locations, and then the biggest and hardest thing, in my opinion, is training new employees because [whereas] the toy store employees we basically have all year round, Halloween [employees are] quite different. We prepare from June just to get ready for October. So the training is more intense because you have to cram a lot of information in a short period of time to get ready, hopefully, for a big season.”

General Manager Zaki Said has a background in marketing and social media and handles store set-up, break-down, customer interactions, and training. (Photo: Jennifer Yos)

Training intensive; inventory extensive

Halloween Land employees are extensively trained, and therefore, Said explains, they try to retain their employees, even relocating them to some of their other store locations. They are currently hiring at the Lansing location.

Halloween Land offers a variety of special effects makeup, and staff members are trained to give demos. (Photo: Jennifer Yos)

Their Halloween inventory is extensive. They have aisles of costumes, special effects makeup, and accessories, including hats, weapons, and, according to Said, perhaps one of the largest mask collections in the Chicagoland area. They also display and sell Halloween home and lawn decorations.

Masks of horror, whimsy, and politics offer a variety of Halloween alter egos. Halloween Land has one of the largest mask collections in the area. (Photo: Jennifer Yos)
Halloween Land also sells yard and home decorations. Their display of nightmarish ghouls evokes the Halloween spirit. (Photo: Jennifer Yos)

Not only do they house over 30,000 pre-made costumes, but they also offer to customize costumes to fit your concept and your budget. If a customer wants something that is not offered in a pre-made costume, Halloween Land employees will artfully combine costume pieces, accessories, and makeup to create the desired character.

Where does the unsold inventory go after Halloween? Most of the decorations and everything in the store will be discounted the first week of November. After the season, about 40% of inventory goes into storage and about 60% goes toward Halloween Land’s online store, where they sell costumes year round.

Media influences on costume popularity

A variety of costumes ready to fulfill the superhero fantasies of boys and girls alike. (Photo: Jennifer Yos)
Superhero costumes are popular this year with children because of the success of Avengers: Endgame, a movie based on the Marvel Comics superhero team. Also, because children are more often exposed to horror movies than in the past, more children are choosing scarier types of costumes. Harry Potter costumes are still a favorite for both adults and children. Adults also favor superhero costumes, as well as horror film characters, such as Michael Myers from Halloween, Jason from Friday the 13th, or Beetlejuice, from the movie of the same name. But General Manager Said predicts that one of the most popular of all this year will be the Baby Shark costumes, available both in child and adult sizes because of the viral Baby Shark video and song sensation of 2019.
Baby Shark costumes are popular this year. Parental Warning: the costume plays a recording of the Baby Shark song. (Photo: Jennifer Yos)

Location and hours

Halloween Land is located at 16839 Torrence Avenue, in the Landings Shopping Center. September hours are 10:00am–8:00pm Monday through Saturday, and 11:00am–7:00pm on Sunday. In October, hours will be 10:00am–midnight. Said encourages everyone to visit their website, myhalloweenland.com, not only to see what is available in the stores, but also to get coupons and discounts, to e-mail special inquiries, or to apply for jobs.

Halloween Land is located at 16839 Torrence Avenue, in the Landings Shopping Center, Lansing, Illinois. (Photo: Jennifer Yos)
Jennifer Yos
Jennifer Yos
Jennifer Yos grew up on Walter Street in Lansing with nine siblings. She attended St. Ann’s School and T.F. South, and she earned a BA in the Teaching of English from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a MS in Education: Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Francis, Joliet. For 34 years she taught English, as well as Creative Writing and Drama, at Lincoln-Way High School. She dabbled in freelance journalism for the Joliet Herald News Living section. Now retired, Jennifer appreciates the opportunity to write for The Lansing Journal and is uplifted by the variety of positive people she has already met who are making a difference in Lansing.