For four decades, the Party Bazaar (formerly Bazaar & Novelty) has been the place to buy Halloween costumes in Vancouver. Over the years, it’s been visited by the Sedins, former premier Christy Clark, and goalie Roberto Luongo, as well as many thousands of lesser-known local residents.
The Party Bazaar was launched in 1977 when pioneering female entrepreneur Wynne Gorman bought the carnival business from Neonex, which was previously owned by Vancouver businessman Jimmy Pattison.
The store has been at 1296 Station Street for seven years, and before that it was on West 2nd Avenue close to what is now the Olympic Village.
In an interview in her second-floor office just east of SkyTrain’s Main Street–Science World Station, Gorman recalls times when customers would be lined up around the block at the former location in anticipation of purchasing their Halloween outfits.
Nowadays, that isn’t a problem, because there’s a large parking lot in front of the 12,000-square-foot building.
“I know that we were really the first Halloween store in Vancouver,” Gorman says.
But Gorman recently decided to close the Party Bazaar on November 4 because the property is being redeveloped into an office building.
“We are going to have a big sale and a big Halloween—and then we’re going to have a big party,” she says.
That closing sale has already started, with 25 percent off everything. Some seasonal items have been marked down 80 percent, and all children’s costumes are 50 percent off.
“We want those kids to have the best Halloween,” Gorman says. “We’re basically going to blow that stuff out of here as quickly as we can.”
She isn’t singing the blues. That’s because she’s too busy preparing for the final two months in advance of vacating the site on November 15. But she concedes that it was impossible to find another Vancouver location affordable enough for her to continue.
She praises her 20 staff members for their loyalty and many years of service, noting that half of them have been with her for at least 15 years. Over the Halloween season, she generally hires another 20 people. About 400 people have worked for the company over four decades, including several children of employees.
“I’ve been very lucky with the staffing,” Gorman emphasizes. “They’ve made this business, because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be in business.”
In the 1970s and 1980s, Gorman sold ink dabbers and other products used in bingo, as well as party supplies. When the government set up the B.C. Lottery Corporation in the mid-1980s, she ramped up the costume business, as well as the sale of balloons and other carnival items.
The Party Bazaar has done a brisk business in costumes for a range of events, including St. Patrick’s Day parties, Vaisakhi, and Oktoberfest.
She has also witnessed Halloween evolve over the years into much more of an adult celebration. In fact, customers who visited the store with their parents and grandparents are all grown up and are buying for themselves.
She adds that the Party Bazaar has also had very good New Year’s business. But the favourite item of them all is balloons, which are sold year-round.
So how is Gorman feeling as she contemplates the end of an era in Vancouver?
“It’s bittersweet,” she says. “I’ve been working since I was 10, so I did my 60 years. I’ll miss the people and I really will miss Halloween.”More