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January 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 1




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Retailer Spotlight: Dark Delicacies

13-Year-Old Store Treats Customers to Terror


“ ... the events really offered us an in-store boost, media coverage and visibility that we couldn’t have gotten any other way.” Del Howison, Dark Delicacies
A 13th anniversary is a significant milestone for any store, but the number is particularly fitting for one that specializes in horror. It certainly suits Del Howison, whose Burbank, Calif., store, Dark Delicacies, hit 13 on Dec. 3, 2007.

“Thirteen is a good year for a horror store,” he told TDmonthly Magazine.

A HORRIFYING LOVE


Dark Delicacies, which Howison touts as the only all-horror book and gift store in the United States, grew from the fact that Del and his girlfriend (now wife and co-owner, Sue Howison) were both into horror films, books and collectibles.

“We were having a hard time finding items to reflect our taste and decorate with, and figured that maybe others were having the same problem,” he explained. “So we decided to find all the toys, books and anything else we could discover that involved horror and bring them in one spot to make it easier for people to find.”

Starting out, it was hard finding horror-specific items to fill an entire store. “Now, it isn’t a problem, but 13 years ago it was a real stretch,” Del admitted to TDmonthly.

BATTLING A SPECIFIC START-UP


Start-up was difficult because his was a small, independent store that was also genre-specific — something he describes as “truly a double negative.” However, he pointed out that one always has unwarranted optimism when venturing into unknown territory.

It was hard for Del and Sue to find a balance in the beginning, he admitted. Quitting their other full-time jobs too early cut into operating funds, but not quitting them sooner meant sacrificing early hands-on time with the store and customers. And they didn’t anticipate racking needs or high display costs.

INVITING SCARY IN

One of the couple’s biggest successes was hosting in-store signing events from the beginning.

“Whether the people were from the realm of film [or] books, or artists who designed the toys, the events really offered us an in-store boost, media coverage and visibility that we couldn’t have gotten any other way,” Del explained.

“People trust what is said in an article much more than they do advertising,” he said.

Moving to a larger spot after five years was also a plus since customers saw that they were putting money back into the business instead of into their own pockets.

“Making the people feel like members of a very special and elite club made them feel the improvements were as much for them as for us,” he explained.

TERROR TRAVELS


The store’s Los Angeles location has been essential to its success, Del noted.

“The authors are here,” he told TDmonthly. “The designers are here. The filmmakers are here. It allowed us to build a base and then go global for horror lovers around the world via our website and our MySpace page.”

According to Del, the most valuable marketing lesson came from his wife, whose idea was to expand in name, not location. After watching many enterprises expand and then fail because of monetary outlay, they decided to broaden the name’s visibility instead of just adding locations.

“Make your name show up in alternative places where your customers are likely to see it,” he advised. “We started a very successful line of horror anthologies that have helped expand the name along with multiple appearances in horror films.”

See Dark Delicacies’ customer favorites here.



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Brenda RuggieroWriter's Bio: Brenda Ruggiero is a freelance writer from western Maryland. Read more articles by this author

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