Countless customers have browsed the shelves of Pattie’s Party Palace in Nanaimo over the past two decades.
But not for much longer.
That’s because the popular party store on Rutherford Road in Nanaimo is closing its doors. Its last day will be Nov. 20.
“This is our last Halloween. COVID has finished us,” said owner Pattie Walker. “We are going to miss our customers so much.”
Pattie’s Party Place first opened 23 years ago after Walker had trouble finding costumes and party supplies while trying to organize parties for work.
“I loved doing and I thought what am I doing running all over town looking for stuff and I have to go to six different stores? Then someone jokingly said to me ‘why don’t you open your own store’ and I thought ‘I better do that,'” Walker recalled.
The first store was located in a 923-square-foot retail space at Dickinson Crossing and moved to its current location at Long Lake Plaza several years ago.
“Now we’re in 4,500 square feet and we’re calling it a day,” she said.
Smaller, independently-owned party supply and costume stores like Pattie’s Party Palace have struggled to compete with online retail giants Amazon and AliExpress in recent years.
Courtenay Costume Rentals, Victoria Costumes, and The Party Crashers in Victoria closed their doors last year. Some Island stores, however, such as All In One Party Shop in the Comox Valley and Balloons “N” More Party Shop in Campbell River continue to operate.
Walker says the pandemic, which shifted even more people towards online shopping, has only accelerated the decline of the independently owned store.
“It has almost become impossible for the independents to compete with the big guys,” she said.
Big box or large corporately-owned stores like Wal-Mart, Party City, and Spirit Halloween, haven’t helped either.
“The multi-million dollar national companies, they always get the priority first in terms of shipping,” said Walker.
With just a few days before Halloween, Walker says sales are down like they were last year compared to what they were before the pandemic hit, but notes that more people appear to be keen on having parties.
“The kids are very excited but I think the adults are extremely excited to be able to have a house party,” she said. “I think the adults are very much acting like little kids right now which is a positive thing, everybody needs that right now.”
Walker says she’s seen a surge in requests for Squid Game — the recently released and extremely popular Korean show on Netflix — costumes but, like most places, doesn’t have any.
“It’s too new, so we don’t have any stock,” she said. “But, everybody is getting creative and making their own. This is the season right now, because of shipping issues, everyone is having to be more creative and modify the costumes to turn it into what they are hoping for.”
Witches are also extremely popular this year too.
“It’s been kind of surprising,” said Walker.
Once Halloween is over, Pattie’s Party Place will remain open until mid-to-late November selling off the remaining inventory.
“We are making it our last Halloween and then we’re clearing our shelves and having lots of fun while we do it,” Walker said.
At the end of the day, Walker says she is honoured to have had so many “wonderful” customers walk through her doors time and time again over the decades and that it has been a joy to watch them grow up.
“We have some customers over the years, where we have done their weddings and then we’ve done the births of their babies and now we’re dressing their kids for various events throughout the years, whether its dance or Halloween,” she said. “Just watching their family become part of our family has been wonderful.”