On the peeling, whitewashed front porch, a little girl wearing a yellowed dress tied with ribbon at her neck has her head thrown back while holding tightly to the handles of a toy horse whose eyes are painted pitch-black. A small child with pallid skin and gray-green hair clasps his hands menacingly. A baby splayed on the ground has his mouth opened in a silent scream, his eyes rimmed red.
These aren’t the typical items purchased at Babies R Us, but that’s what customers can expect from the former Babies R Us location at 6104 N. Division St., which is repurposed as Spirit Halloween. The former Toys R Us at 15505 E Broadway Ave. is also serving as a location for the 35-year-old New Jersey-based Halloween superstore chain.
“People know where it is, you just say we’re where the Babies R Us used to be,” seasonal Spirit Halloween employee Hailey Annis said.
Temporary walls are emblazoned with “Spirit Halloween” and images of spider webs surround the sales floor, but remnants of what used to be are clearly visible. A pastel yellow banner with the Babies R Us company name framed by cherubic babies ribbons above the walls marking the fitting room area.
Annis assures that the juxtaposition of haunted children and baby store markers is unintentional, but admits it can be scary.
“It’s just kind of funny because when you turn the lights off, it’s spooky wherever you are, so it just adds to it,” Annis said of closing the store in the evening.
Given its seasonal nature, the Halloween superstore has always needed vacant spaces, and Spirit Halloween Analyst Marisa Uzzolino acknowledged in an email this was one of the unique challenges of seasonal retail.
With the closure of Toys R Us and Babies R Us, customers were beginning to notice these buildings were a common selection for Spirit Halloween, trading slogans from “Where a kid can be a kid” to “So much fun it’s scary.”
The account @DismalAbysmal tweeted that Spirit Halloween hadn’t bothered to cover the Toys R Us trim.
One Twitter user joked that when one door closes, Spirit Halloween opens.
On Saturday, Tatyana Yerxa popped into the Broadway location with her boyfriend to buy last-minute face paint for a friend.
“It’s a little weird because I grew up here, and Toys R Us was always here,” Yerxa said while waiting in line. “It was always the store when something really awesome happened, my parents would take me to get a gift, and now it’s completely gone.”
The change isn’t a complete loss for Yerxa. She’s a big fan of Halloween – she and her boyfriend are going as unicorns this year – and she said Spirit Halloween was her second-favorite store.
The line, however, was something she could do without. Not quite at the cashiers’ area at around 3 pm, Yerxa already had been waiting nearly 30 minutes in the 75-plus person line. She said she understands retail can be challenging because she used to work at Lovers, where she admits the costumes are a bit … different.
Whether Spirit Halloween will be able to haunt these locations in 2019 is unknown – the owners of Toys R Us and Babies R Us had planned to auction off the company but canceled and announced they are considering “a new, operating Toys R Us and Babies R Us branding company,” CNN reported from a Toys R Us court filing.
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