Halloween a big business for Kentucky-based company

OWENTON, Ky. Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. _ It’s not surprising to find pumpkins growing in the fields of Owen County _ but the country’s second-largest pop-up Halloween retailer?

“There’s one company larger than mine, and we’re No. 2,” said Curtis Sigretto, owner of 16-year-old Halloween Express, which has 135 stores, including franchises, in 36 states, with four in Greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.

“Our sales will be over $40 million this year,” said Sigretto, 45, who said his Halloween Express is exceeded in stores only by New Jersey-based Spirit Halloween, owned by mall retailer Spencer Gifts.

The five-person Halloween Express headquarters is in Owenton. Of all 135 stores, about one-quarter are owned by Owen County residents _ including farmers and attorneys.

“I have two in Louisville; one in Boise, Idaho; one in San Diego; one in Seattle; and one in Denver,” said personal-injury lawyer Scott Cammack, who deploys local residents to manage those stores from Sept. 1 to Nov. 7.

“I spend a lot more time on the road traveling than I ever have in my life, but I enjoy it.”

A side benefit is the stores’ nice locations, said Cammack, 36.

“I can take off and go to Denver, which has the mountains, and San Diego, which is a beautiful city to travel to,” he said. “Never thought I’d have occasion to go to Boise, Idaho, but frankly, Boise is my top store this year, and pretty likely will be one of the tops in the company.”

Cammack’s father-in-law, Sparta tobacco and cattle farmer Mike Howard, has three stores _ in Kansas City; Wichita, Kan.; and north of Chicago.

Howard said the work is fun but can be stressful “because everything happens so fast. It’s not like a permanent, year-round store.”

His wife, Marcella, opened her store in Wichita on Sept. 1, and it will make half its yearly sales by Oct. 20, Howard said. The other half of sales will happen during a two-week crunch period that follows.

“You’ve got to get everything lined up and ready for those last two weeks, because it gets real serious,” Howard said. “If you don’t have your inventory there, and you don’t have your help there, and if you don’t have everything there, it can really hurt you.”

Cammack was so busy last year, he didn’t have time to wear a costume.

“Last year, I was so tired that I actually went as a Halloween-store guy,” he said. “I just wore my black Halloween Express shirt.”

But daughters Tori, 8, and Bella, 4, are in paradise.

“When your daddy owns a bunch of Halloween stores and a whole bunch of costumes, it changes almost daily what you’re going to be,” Cammack said.

Fully one-third of adults nationwide will be joining his daughters in the masquerade, a survey conducted recently for the National Retail Federation found. Young adults _ ages 18-24 _ are driving that trend, with 63 percent of them planning to dress up, said Ellen Davis, spokeswoman for the retail federation. Another 48 percent of those ages 25 to 34 will be costumed.

Americans will spend $4.96 billion on Halloween this year _ including candy, costumes, decorations and greeting cards _ up 51 percent from a year ago, the same survey found.

“I think it’s the one time of year that people can be anyone or anything that they want to be,” Cammack said. “You drive up and down the street, and you see more decorations in people’s yards every year. … People need a day to have fun, and that’s what Halloween has become.”