At Halloween time each year, people flock to large chain stores, such as Party City, Party Works and The Halloween Store for décor and costumes to celebrate. But, after the holiday has passed, Halloween stores close up shop and year-round chains like Party City ready for the next holiday.
However, the fun of dressing up and getting gag gifts does not stop after October at The Fun Shop.
Located at 634 S. Highland St., The Fun Shop has long been selling and renting some of the most unique costumes one will come across in the Mid-South. Though costumes and pranks make up the largest percentage of the shop’s sells, one can find anything from wigs, shoes, hats, masks and makeup, to magic tricks, comic books, action figures, trading cards and DVDs.
“Shortly after, a representative from the S.S. Adams Novelty company came by and showed Mac some magic tricks,” Hendrickson said. “From then on it was a joke, novelty and magic shop.”
In the early 1940s, Louis Anderton, who was also an Al Chymia Shrine clown, bought the store and quickly turned it into one of the largest magic shops in the United States. During the late 1960s to early 1970s, the shop moved to the Poplar Plaza shopping center. It was after the move to the more centralized location that the shop began to sell costumes.
Beginning with the sale of Santa Claus costumes, the shop began to sell more costumes, which became a very major part of the business. By the early 1990s, Anderton sold the shop to his brother Walter, who turned around and opened what is now known as The Fun Shop in Southaven, Miss. It was not but a few years later that Walter sold the shop back to Louis, who moved the shop to its current location.
After Anderton passed away in 2001 from lung cancer, long-time employee Larry Tracy inherited the business.
“Also, one of The Fun Shop's oldest employees, Richard Oakley, came back to work for Larry,” Hendrickson said. “Richard worked for Louis off-and-on for about forty years. Richard passed away a few years ago. He was one of Memphis' most respected magicians and also worked at The Orpheum playing the organ.”
Tracy went on to retire in 2007, selling the shop to current owner Matt Bynum. Many Memphians have never heard or been to The Fun Shop. Senior University of Memphis psychology major Richard Craig happened to stumble upon the establishment while grabbing a bite to eat at the Super Submarine Sandwich Shop a few doors down.
“I just saw the sign after I walked out and thought I’d see what it was all about,” Craig said. “(The Fun Shop) has some of the coolest costumes I’ve ever seen. Not to mention they’ve got some really nifty pranks and magic tricks. I’ve come here the last two Halloweens.”
Halloween and Christmas, also known as the fourth quarter, make up over half of the annual sales The Fun Shop brings in. Hendrickson said the shop has to acquire extra bodies to help out during the season because of the rush.
“We hire extra employees for the season and it makes up nearly half of our annual sales,” he said. “Needless to say, the last week of October is crazy busy.”
The shop has also had history supplying props and costumes for other events, such as Memphis Wrestling. For many years, The Fun Shop provided materials to well known wrestlers, such as Jerry “The King” Lawler, Jimmy Hart and Koko B. Ware.
The Party City located in the Poplar Plaza frequently refers customers to the shop, as it generally does not carry large quantities of costumes, makeup and props after the Halloween season. Manager Michael Mezzo said he has no problem sending business The Fun Shop’s way.
“They’ve long been serving the Memphis area with great supplies, so my employees and I refer customers there all the time,” Mezzo said. “It’s a great place and I have no problem sending business their way when we don’t have something someone is looking for.”
As society moves towards more Internet based business, it becomes harder to find places like The Fun Shop that offer the fun of shopping and visiting a physical store, as well as person-to-person customer service. But as time passes, the shop continues to offer citizens a place to stop by and experience the magic The Fun Shop has to offer.
“The Fun Shop continues to operate out of something that surfing the web hasn't bred out of people quite yet, and that is the nostalgia of walking into an old, established local business that still holds onto a piece of the past,” Hendrickson said. “You can't get that virtually and, hopefully, you never can.”