AVONDALE – A trio of horror and pop culture fanatics go it alone and open a brick-and-mortar store in Avondale after years of selling their screen-printed t-shirts and other merchandise at horror conventions .
Brothers Vinny Malave and Moses Gibson, founders of screen printing company The Cryptic Closet, and their friend, Aaron Gaston, will open The Horror House at 2911 W. Belmont Ave. may’s beginning.
The Horror House will sell a range of horror-themed collectibles, t-shirts and toys from brands such as Neca, Terror Threads and The Cryptic Closet clothing, as well as merchandise from local artists, including Steven Luros Holliday and Adam Michaels. Malave and Gibson plan to use the store’s basement as a screen printing studio.
The Horror House will be the latest addition to Avondale’s burgeoning horror scene, which includes Bucket O’Blood Books & Records and Bric a Brac Records and its upcoming horror-themed cafe, The Brewed.
The Horror House Shop team launched a Kickstarter last month to help open the shop and build The Cryptic Closet screen printing studio. The campaign raised over $9,300 toward its $20,000 goal.
“After taking care of the legalities, licenses and permits needed just to open the doors, we decided to enlist the help of the horror community as well as family and friends. Thanks to your funding, we will be able to stock the store and offer much more than originally planned,” the trio said in the campaign.
The shop is built on a deep appreciation of horror movies – and nerdy pop culture.
Malave, 33, fell in love with horror growing up in the Logan Square neighborhood. He said his family “would have horror movie marathons all year round”, and he became obsessed with thrilling movies.
As a result, Malave took up wrestling, a sport that draws inspiration from the horror scene. For the past eight years, Malave worked as a screen printer at Wrestling Pro Tees, where he and Gibson began making their own t-shirts under The Cryptic Closet.
“I decided to use my resources at work and combine my love for horror movies and my love for t-shirts,” Malave said. “I used to do random designs for myself, and the more I wore them, the more compliments I got.”
Under the brand, launched in 2016, the two sell apparel and accessories with cheeky depictions of horror and pop culture icons and motifs, like t-shirts featuring Jason from “Friday The 13th” made for look like a 3D robot and Danny DeVito like Frankenstein.
While selling their wares at horror conventions across the country, Malave and Gibson came up with the idea of opening their own store — not only to expand The Cryptic Closet, but also to “sell other brands that don’t are not accessible,” Malave said. The two teamed up with Gaston, who also sold at horror conventions for the Plug Uglie brand.
“There are a lot of shows and conventions that happen once or twice a year, but as far as a fixed place where you can get t-shirts, collectibles and artwork, there is no There’s really no place like it,” Malave said.
The three hoped to take over Bric a Brac’s former space on Diversey Avenue, but those plans fell through, leading them to a vacant store about a mile north.
Malave said the Belmont Avenue space was perfect: it’s in the same neighborhood as Bric a Brac Records and DMen Tap, with a horror and metal theme, and it’s near where he and Gibson grew up.
“It was already a dream to open my own business, let alone open one with my brother, but the fact that it’s in such a sentimental place for us is the icing on the cake,” Malave said.
Once Horror House is up and running, they plan to host artist events and celebrity signings to build community around the business, Malave said.
Fans of The Cryptic Closet have been asking for years when there will be a permanent shop, and it’s exciting to finally be able to deliver, Malave said.
“We’re horror fans trying to create something special for horror fans,” he said. “We’re trying to build and create the kind of shop that we would want to go to as fans.”
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