Dozens of eerie masks ready for their first scare line the walls at the Spook Shop, a local Halloween store. “When someone comes in and says something is disgusting, we take that as a huge compliment,” said owner James Burke. // Photo by Harrison Amelang
As the cold breeze of fall creeps into Bellingham, many local Halloween lovers are preparing their costumes for a chilling night of spooky festivities. Whether you choose to be a witch, a ghoul or a soon-to-be-irrelevant pop culture reference, Spook Shop owners James and Laurel Burke are ready to help.
Spook Shop, a seasonal Halloween store, opened its doors for the season on Oct. 5, marking 21 years of providing creepy merchandise to the people of Bellingham.
“I enjoy the challenge when people walk through the door,” James Burke said. “I get to help them find what they need, whether its from us or one of our competitors.”
James Burke said opening a Halloween store was something he and wife Laurel Burke just fell into. He said many years ago when they owned a small gift shop in Arizona, a Spirit Halloween store opened next door.
“I would watch people go in there with the biggest smiles on their face,” he said. “I realized that people genuinely love Halloween in a way that even Christmas can’t compare with sometimes.”
In 1998, James and Laurel took their observations, moved to Bellingham and opened up another small gift store in Bellis Fair Mall. Shortly after, they opened their first storefront in Sehome, James Burke said.
After a year, the Burkes launched the Spook Shop website and expanded their store into a warehouse for online purchases.
According to James Burke, Spook Shop offers more masks, hosiery and wigs than any other costume shop in Bellingham.
“We’ve got a lot of high-end unique things that other downtown shops just can’t touch,” James Burke said.
Spook Shop doesn’t just offer costumes and props. The Burkes are currently in the process of setting up “the dark room,” a room full of creepy, decorative merchandise, complete with a graveyard, black lights and a blood-spurting fountain for a truly freaky experience, James Burke said.
“When someone comes in and says something is disgusting, we take that as a huge compliment,” he said.
Even though the shop is still open, the Burkes said they considered making 2017 their last year of running the store. After an employee was caught stealing merchandise, it took them a while to recover.
“It really hit us hard,” James Burke said. “We’re a mom and pop store and we really trusted our employees.”
Despite the setback, Laurel Burke said she is excited to be open again during one of her favorite times of year.
“I think people really feel like they can be someone else on Halloween and really let loose,” she said. “It’s fun to be a part of that.”
Western senior Alyssa Hagen said she looks forward to creating her costume by bringing different pieces together.
“My sister and I were planning on going as Christmas,” Hagen said. “We typically make our own costumes, but if there’s an opportunity to get something locally I would definitely recommend it.”
Freshman Maite Cruz said her Halloween costume will be dependent on her budget.
“I was going for something more simple, like a kitty or an angel,” she said. “It’s definitely a money thing.”
For more frightening fun, visit Spook Shop on 800 Marine Dr. between 12-8 p.m., Monday-Saturday and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday.