Halloween Connection is in it for the Thrill

Originally Published on October 27 2013

A TATTOOED MAN in a black t-shirt is wielding a plastic sledgehammer. The man may need the hammer for protection on this particular Tuesday night, because he is among ghouls, demons, witches, and vampires. Or he could just be shopping at Halloween Connection, the seasonal Halloween emporium on King’s Highway in New Bedford.

The plastic hammer in his hand makes more sense when you notice his 6-year old son wearing a Thor costume, tugging at his jeans. The young man knows no Thor costume is complete without Thor’s hammer (Mjölnir).

“How’d it fit?” asks Richard Langlois, co-owner of Halloween Connection.

“It looked pretty good,” dad replies before looking down towards his son, “What do you think buddy?”

His son answers by standing triumphantly as Marvel’s god of thunder should, beaming from ear to ear.

“Can I get the hammer too, dad?” he pleads.

“We’ll see, bud.”

THROWING MONSTER MASHES

LANGLOIS loves what he does and he’ll work until close 7 days a week, carrying in packages of shipment like a sales associate even though he owns the place. Halloween and dressing up have always been passions for him. In 2008, along with his business partner and co-owner Walter Mandeville Jr., Langlois turned those passions into helping others find their costume. Langlois is most proud of Halloween Connection’s impressive prop collection, though. Giant hooded skeletons dangle from the walls, severed limbs litter the aisles, and larger-than-life creatures demand second-takes like the statue of two pale-faced conjoined sisters that look like gothic versions of the Grady daughters from The Shining.

“For the person who’s decorating their yard,” Langlois said, “They’ve known to come to us for their Halloween supplies.”

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Halloween Connection is celebrating its fifth year anniversary but Langlois’s love affair with Halloween started almost twenty years ago. During their senior year at New Bedford High, Langlois and Mandeville would throw large Halloween parties at halls.

“We’d rent out a hall, it was only for one night for four hours but it was a huge event. We’d spend weeks preparing and inviting close friends and family.”

Soon, their parties accumulated more buzz, and became a yearly tradition after high school. Langlois then began doubling up on the props for their parties, one to keep and the other to sell on Ebay.

“We realized if we buy two of everything, we could still throw a great party but make some of the money back online,” Langlois explained. “And before we knew it we had amassed a huge collection of props.”

Things snowballed from there. When Circuit City went out of business in 2008, Langlois took over the vacant space. “It just seemed like a natural progression to go into retail,” Langlois said.

Halloween Connection did so well, Langlois said, that the former Circuit City in Taunton gave Langlois “an offer I couldn’t refuse.” They opened up two stores in one year. Sales have been steady ever since, but like all locally owned businesses there is constant competition from larger chain stores like Spirit Halloween, a Halloween store that has more than 10 locations - the closest just six miles from Halloween Connection in Dartmouth.

“Honestly, family always comes first and my parents always have my best interest in mind. Yes, it’s weird that I already have this perfect life set up for me, but I know my parents have the best intent when it comes to my life so I trust them. I will stick by their judgment till my death bed.”

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“I think people understand the difference between a national chain popping up a store and bleeding a community dry verses a store that opens locally, and hires local,” said Langlois. “Everything about us is local. 80% of our revenue stays in the city. Spirits, the only money they’re generating into the community is payroll. Our customers know who we are. We offer a level of service that we hope is unmatched. I challenge my employees to walk through Spirits and see if they get serviced.”

 

FOR THE LOVE OF THE HAUNT

Langlois sets up inventory in July and opens up shop in September. Halloween Connection has a website, halloweenconnection.net, but most of the promotion is tackled with a more hands-on approach. Langlois spent four hours placing flyers on the windshields of cars in the lots of the UMass Dartmouth campus during the second week of school.

Langlois will be attending this year’s Halloween convention “HAuNTcon” in April in Dallas and already has plans to travel to next year’s show in Houston. “My business partner and I go every year to wherever the show is,” said Langlois. “It’s great because everyone there loves Halloween and all these great costumes are all under one roof.”

 

THAT PESKY WORLD WIDE COB WEB

Back at the store on Tuesday night, the father of the 6-year old yearning to dismantle villains and candy as Thor has made his decision.

“The costume fit great but I’m ’gonna see if my wife already got it online.” He purchases the hammer, though.

The internet is what haunts small stores like Halloween Connection but Langlois points out that one of the best things about shopping in his store as opposed to online, is that you can try on the costumes, in one of the many fitting rooms.

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“I think people understand the difference between a national chain popping up a store and bleeding a community dry verses a store that opens locally, and hires local. Everything about us is local. 80% of our revenue stays in the city.”

“We want people to come in, have a good time, and try on costumes,” Langlois said. “Why buy something online, pay extra shipping and handling, and then return it because it doesn’t fit?”

And why deprive the little ghouls and gals such a great experience? Since they are usually the most satisfied customers, so much so that they don’t want to take their costumes off.

“I’ve got a lot of princesses walking out the door,” Langlois says with pride.

When asked what he’ll dress up as this Halloween, a slow grin cascades across Langlois’s face.

“We have the official licensed ‘Assassin’s Creed - Connor’ costume from Leg Avenue,” he says, noting that the official costume comes with everything for $175, “I might be that.”

 

THE FREAKS COME OUT AT NIGHT

THAT’S ‘DIRTY COP!’” Langlois exclaimed when a female sale associate had just brought in another box of costumes fresh from shipment. This one was ‘Dirty Cop,’ a police officer equipped with short-shorts, fishnet stockings, and knee-high boots. “That’s one of our best sellers. Dirty Cop’ always sells out.” There are three whole aisles dedicated to adult female costumes.

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“In the first six weeks it’s all women,” Langlois explained. “Most of the girls want to get their sexy costume first, and then there’s the moms buying for the little kids.”

Fashionably late to the Halloween party, male customers usually show up in the last two weeks of costume crunch time. Once the guys know what their better half want to wear they can now get a costume to match, according to Langlois.

“She dictates what they’re wearing this year.”

There is also a section dedicated to plus-sized women and Langlois said the response has been positive, “I’ve had women come in and cry and tell me that this is the first time they’ve had a section where they don’t have to torture themselves looking through what they call ‘skinny bitches’ sizes.”

So what’s flying off the shelves like a vampire who’s smelled garlic this October? Langlois said the hot costumes for the kids this year are Monster High (a popular doll from Mattel, adapted to a web series cartoon on YouTube) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and older comic from the 80s, made into a TV series in the 90s, and revived for today’s generation). Langlois said superheroes are always popular but this year Duck Dynasty is really big.

“We’re selling more beards and camouflage hats than ever.”

“I’ve had women come in and cry and tell me that this is the first time they’ve had a section where they don’t have to torture themselves looking through what they call ‘skinny bitches’ sizes.”

Strange moments are inevitable at the Halloween Connection. A couple of years ago one customer returned daily to the store for some alone time with a female avatar costume. He’d spend thirty minutes in the dressing room and when he finally decided to buy it, Langlois gladly sold it to him at a discount. And just last year a bunch of guys came in and decided to be 1920s flappers.

“I love it,” said Langlois. “It’s Halloween, anything goes.”