- An employee of a Chicago costume shop called out retail giant Spirit Halloween for placing an ad across the street.
- His viral tweet has been shared more than 4,000 times, including by notables like actor Nick Offerman.
- Spirit Halloween, known for taking over empty storefronts, has more than 1,400 stores across the US.
A local Chicago costume shop is going head-to-head with national retail giant Spirit Halloween.
Andy Rowell — an employee at Chicago Costume, a family-owned store open year-round since 1976 — told Insider he was walking into work on Tuesday when he noticed a large advertisement for Spirit Halloween had suddenly appeared across the street.
Struck by the placement of the billboard on the same block as his decades-old employer, he shared a photo on Twitter, which quickly went viral.
“It just felt too incongruous of a visual gag to be real,” Rowell told Insider. “It really shows a disparity in business that is definitive of the world — when the big guy Walmart Superstore encroaches on innocent all-American family-owned business, when Amazon comes to town, how can folks possibly keep up?”
Rowell, who also moonlights as a comedian and musician, followed up with a thread extolling the benefits of shopping at a local store for Halloween, including finding specialty items like custom-made masks.
“Instead of spending your hard-earned cash at a mega-corporation that only pops up once a year… try shopping local! And think global, baby,” Rowell wrote in the thread.
Chicago Costume — which sells and rents costumes for all occasions, including holidays and theatrical productions — is run by a small team composed mostly of local artists and performers, Rowell said. The company is actively involved in community affairs and regularly partners with Chicago organizations, neighborhood committees, schools, and charities, according to the company website.
Hello Twitter. I work at a year round, family-owned costume shop called @ChicagoCostume. A few days ago, Spirit Halloween, an $8.9 billion dollar company, placed this billboard within a block of the storefront. 🧵 (1/13) pic.twitter.com/fPc0s5JLEp
— Andy Rowell (@goodfriendandy) October 12, 2021
Locals and notable figures jumped in to defend the store on Twitter and to share the tweet, which currently has nearly 16,000 likes and more than 4,000 retweets. Its supporters included actor Nick Offerman, a native of Joliet, Illinois who Rowell said previously worked with Chicago Costume to outfit a music video.
This place rocks hard https://t.co/XikvGMGmEH
— Nick Offerman (@Nick_Offerman) October 12, 2021
According to Rowell, Chicago Costume was not notified in advance of the posting of the advertisement. The billboard cites Spirit Halloween’s 37 locations in the Chicago area, though there are no stores located in the direct vicinity of the sign.
Spirit Halloween did not immediately respond to Insider’s request to comment.
In recent years, Spirit Halloween stores have grown ubiquitous across the US, best known for taking over abandoned storefronts and empty retail spaces in suburban strip malls. The company — which is owned by the mall brand, Spencer Gifts — currently boasts more than 1,400 and has become the subject of a series of popular memes.
wow they move fast pic.twitter.com/FmsPJURgEp
— Keith Edwards (@keithedwards) October 4, 2021
Spirit has had an eye to increasing its share of the Halloween market, an industry estimated to be valued at more than $10 billion in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation.
Rowell said Spirit Halloween is “cannibalizing small business,” adding that he wasn’t surprised his tweet was so popular.
“I think that frustration is on everybody’s mind, about the encroachment of corporations into all facets of life,” he said. “Mom-and-pop versus giant corporation is an underdog story that people like to root for, and we’re the underdogs in this one.”