Feb 4, 2016
Washington D.C.’s year-round Halloween store: Total Party – Party, Costumes & Novelties
Zeke Jennings

Lorenzo Caltagirone’s transition from haunted attraction enthusiast to costume and party storeowner has been a long one.

The trek started 12 years ago with a production company that eventually saw Caltagirone open multiple seasonal Halloween stores before finally merging operations to a single year-round Halloween-focused party and costume shop: Total Party – Party, Costumes & Novelties, located just outside Washington D.C. in Arlington, Virginia. The store occupies approximately 4,500 feet of retail space on the first floor of the three-level Ballston Common Mall.

After another busy Halloween season, Caltagirone recently took some time to tell Party & Paper Retailer about his store:

PPR: What products do you offer?

LC: Total Party – Party, Costumes & Novelties offers party supplies, balloons, novelty gifts, costuming and accessories. … We also offer some party/cater supplies as well as seasonal decor. In addition, we sell greeting cards, stationery and other craft items used in costume embellishments. We are not just a party shop; we like to classify ourselves as an all-year round party, costume and Halloween shop.

PPR: How would you describe your business philosophy?

LC: My business philosophy is to always evolve and adapt to your customers and the industry.

PPR: How did the store come to be?

My journey to open a party costume shop started with my interest in Haunted Attractions. In 2004, I founded Total Fright Productions, LLC (TFP). The venture was unsuccessful. However, from that venture, Total Fright – A Unique Halloween Boo-tique was born. From 2006 to 2009, Total Fright operated two seasonal Halloween stores in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia. In 2009, Total Fright founded Total Party – Party, Costumes & Novelties. In 2010, Total Party/Total Fright merged as one store into the only all year-round party, costume and Halloween shop in the metro D.C. area. In 2012, Total Party relocated in Arlington.

PPR: Could you describe the store’s atmosphere?

LC: We pride ourselves in creating an experience the moment you walk in the store. That includes a door chime saying “Welcome to Total Party,” fun party music playing throughout the store, track lighting to make the products pop with color and even the aroma smell plugins that are seasonally and strategically placed throughout the store. Since we took an old bookstore space, we incorporated the rolling ladder that aligns the perimeter of the store as part of floorplan, using it to retrieve overstock and behind the counter items, adding to the uniqueness of the store. Our products are also unique. It is hard not to find something fun when in Total Party. Of course, the most important is providing the best personal customer service and listening to our customers. They are why we are here.

PPR: What makes the store unique?

LC: We carry selected products from over 60 vendors in our store. What brings customers to our store is the quality and uniqueness of our products. We see what is trending and try to get that product quickly as possible. We do a fair amount of balloon sales, and we offer balloon arrangements for free. We market our store during the Halloween store through fliers and commercials. Offseason, we offer discounts and secret deals using Facebook.

PPR: What are some of your big non-Halloween sellers?

LC: Balloons and birthday party supplies will always sell year-round. We display most of our balloons and trending decor in the store. Beads, leis, hats, mustaches, wigs and other novelty wearables are great add-ons for parties.

PPR: Your focus is Halloween, but that’s only once a year. What sustains the business during the non-Halloween months?

LC: Outside of Halloween, decade and themed costume parties have kept the costumes sales alive throughout the year, not to mention Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day and Fourth of July costume sales. Anything political and topical always helps with costume sales throughout the year as well.

PPR: What’s the best part about owning the shop?

LC: My favorite part of owning a party store is the artistic freedom on what products to carry; creative ways to display them in the store and helping the customers plan their party. What job gives you the opportunity to be surrounded my fantasy?

Total Party is like three stores in one. We have the party supply side, where we carry party supplies, balloons, decor and seasonal items. We have the costume side, where we carry costumes and their accessories in certain themes or decades. We also have a permanent Halloween part of the store we carry props and Halloween specific items.

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