The Haunted History of Horner Novelty

We Interview Horner Novelty Owner, Chuck Mattingly, about his Louisville Novelty Supply Stores and Find out What’s Hot for Halloween 2013!

On this Friday the 13th, the Halloween haunting season proper begins, dragging the summer to its death kicking and screaming. The ScareFest spooks Lexington all weekend with paranormal and horror film guests galore, and several of the Louisville haunted houses creak open their doors for horror business. Now is the time to start thinking about decorating your own haunted houses and yards, and planning ahead for all the Halloween costume parties and trick-or-treat gatherings.

One of my first stops each year is the Horner Novelty mega store at 310 Spring Street just across the bridge in Jeffersonville, IN. This massive, two story building annually stocks one of Kentuckiana’s largest selection of Halloween costumes, makeup, decorations and props. Horner has two smaller, satellite locations at 3419 Breckinridge Lane in Jeffersontown and at 3315 Preston Highway, but the Jeffersonville store is the one to visit for sheer Halloween spectacle.

You won’t find near the selection of Halloween goodies on display at any of the pop-up Halloween stores that open in vacant strip malls this time of year. The entire first floor of Horner’s is filled with animated props, latex monster masks, traditional paper Halloween decorations and costumes of all varieties. There’s even a “dark room” displaying all the glow-in-the-dark stuff.

This week I sat down with Horner Novelty owner, Chuck Mattingly, to discover the history of his Halloween haven and get his expert opinion on what’s new and hot this season.

“The original owner’s name was Alex Horner,” says Mattingly, “and he opened the first store strictly as a Bingo supplies dealer back in the early 1970’s.”

“The business did well,” Mattingly continues, “I came to work for him right out of High School in 1981. Then in 1982, we added carnival supplies to the business to cater to all the local church carnival fundraisers and weekend fish fries.” The second floor of the Jeffersonville location is still mostly filled with carnival and wedding party supplies.

“Gradually, we expanded to include other holidays and events, and the growth of the Halloween industry over the last 15 years made it a natural extension for us,” says Mattingly. “Halloween now accounts for 25% of our annual sales, followed by the Derby.”

The Jeffersonville mega store opened in an old, historic building on Spring Street in January of 1987, but sadly burned to the ground in a fire in January of 2004. The new Horner anchor store was rebuilt on the same spot the next year.

So what does Mattingly think is going to be hot in costumes this year? “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are going to be big this year,” he says. “I think adults that grew up with the turtles are now getting their kids into them. Also, the Minions from the ‘Despicable Me’ movies look like they’re going to be everywhere.”

Pac-Man is another franchise from the 1980’s that I think is going to come back this year,” he adds. “Apart from that, I think superheroes and zombies are going to continue to be big this year. We saw a huge spike in fake blood sales this year right before the Louisville Zombie Attack. We were selling blood by the gallon jugs!”

Mattingly says there’s a new trend in “yard flags” coming this year: large, tarp signs with Halloween images and slogans on them made to be displayed in people’s front yards.

“There’s also lots of new merchandise available focusing on the Day of the Dead,” he says. The Mexican Day of the Dead takes place over two days right after our traditional Halloween on November 1st and November 2nd. “I’ve ordered a few big Day of the Dead props and decorations that should be coming in soon. I’m not sure if that’s going to go over here in the States or not, but come see me again on November 1st and I’ll be able to tell you for sure.”

When I asked Mattingly why he thought the Halloween industry has gotten so big over the last 10 to 15 years, he said, “I think it’s the adults who used to trick-or-treat and love Halloween as children that have brought Halloween back. They’ve brought it back and made it better.”

“One day a year you can be a kid again. Unlike Thanksgiving or Christmas, it’s not a regimented holiday. Those holidays can actually be stressful and hectic as families have to watch the clock and travel from one location to another. Their day is packed from morning until night with responsibility. Halloween is a much more relaxed holiday without rituals and responsibilities.”

The Horner Novelty store in Jeffersonville is open regular hours from Monday through Saturday from 10AM to 6PM. The Jeffersontown and Preston Highway locations are open Monday through Friday from 10AM7PM and Saturday from 10AM6PM.

This is the Phantom of the Ville packing my extra bed sheets with holes in them in preparation for my weekend in Lexington at The ScareFest. We’ll have a Louisville Halloween booth there all weekend. Come see us for some free vampire teeth! If you’re not headed to Lexington this weekend, I recommend a trip to Horner Novelty in Jeffersonville, and while you’re there, stop by Schimpff’s Confectionery less than a block down the street ( ) and see if they’re making Halloween candy! I will return to the Ville soon.

The Phantom of The Ville

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