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  • Mary Kane

The ‘Business’ of Halloween

NEW YORK—It’s official. Halloween, once thought of as a day for little kids going door to door and shouting “trick or treat” has morphed into a holiday for the big kids (aka adults) as well, placing it squarely in the realm of big business. Believe it or not, this year, more than 179 million Americans plan to celebrate Halloween, up from 171 million in 2016, according to the National Retail Federation.

And the dollars spent on this holiday are downright scary: “Consumers are expected to spend $9.1 billion, up from $8.4 billion in 2016. The top costume for children is reported to be an action hero or superhero, while the top pick for adults is a witch. Pets will not be left behind, with 10 percent of consumers dressing their pet as a pumpkin,” according to the NRF’s annual Halloween survey.

This time of year, many optical shops and eyecare practices are decorating their stores in honor of All Hallows’ Eve. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, on social media ECPs remain vigilant about reminding customers about the dangers of wearing illegal contact lenses.

But one optical shop in Columbia, S.C. has taken a different tack when it comes to celebrating Halloween, upping the marketing value of the holiday in a bid to connect with the local community while getting customers into the store.

Frame of Mind bills itself as an “optical gallery and purveyor of fine things,” offering high end, high quality eyewear featuring brands such as Anne et Valentin, Volte Face, Savannah Moss and Theo Eyewear. But Frame of Mind is a bit of a hybrid, according to founder and optician Mark Plessinger who described the business as “an alternative approach that’s part optical shop, part art gallery and performance art space—a black box of sorts for artists.”

So instead of just decorating the store for Oct. 31, Frame of Mind decided to bring the holiday and the celebration into the store, literally using the space as a stage.

In anticipation of Oct. 31, Frame of Mind hosted “All Things Poe,” (as in Edgar Allen) which is part of a performance art series that Plessinger curates. “I run an entity called Shamelessly Hot, which is dedicated to Burlesque, Americana, Vaudeville, sideshow, magic and comedy. We do one big event a year, which is traditionally the first weekend of October. This year, we themed it as The Festival of Poe and coordinated visual arts with performing arts such as paintings, sculpture, puppetry, film, magic, Burlesque, sideshow and more. And all of this was hosted inside my physical location, Frame of Mind.”

Next up on the calendar was Midland's Board Gamers (MBG's) Clue Halloween Party on Oct. 27. Think Miss Scarlett in the library with the candlestick. Attendees are urged “to use your powers of deduction to find the killer and take home the prize. Costumes are encouraged for this early Halloween celebration.”

Plessinger asked, “We are all about culture, and what is more cultural than the games we play? Frame of Mind teamed up with MBG to create a way to bring the old school board games (Clue, Scrabble, Yahtzee, etc.) back into the public eye.

“It’s a well-documented fact that the Millennial generation are finding board games again, that they are looking for a way to socialize that isn't on their phone or in a bar. Board game tournaments are a great way to attract the Millennials as well as the older generations to sit and converse, and to have a great time doing so. So, we came up with Clue because it's Halloween right, so we are doing a Clue Board Game tournament, a Halloween party and we’ll show a movie or two—all hosted within the confines of my physical store,” Plessinger said.

Frame of Mind’s art gallery features two permanent artists, Whitney LeJeune and Jenna Sach, along with gallery space dedicated to a revolving lineup of local and regional artists. The gallery space/show room floor also plays host to many different arts events, including poetry readings, book signings and performing artists. For Plessinger the connection between art and eyewear is strong. He’s been involved in the optical industry for more than 21 years but admits he doesn’t see enough creativity in it.

“You can't reinvent the wheel over and over and over and consider yourself to be growing/creative. I believe you have to be an asset to your community before you are anything else and that goes for any business type. A business person always needs to be defining their business, making themselves stand out and be unique.

“For me, creativity is at the core of being a community asset. And the eyewear industry, by its very nature, is ART. It is the first thing that people see (other than a woman's shoes) when you walk in a room, it is an indelible part of your personality, it is ART. And art is creativity.”

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