New business

LA pumpkin patches scare off new business

Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch is open 7 days a week.

It wouldn’t be Halloween without bright pumpkins and decorative munchkin pumpkins on display, and every year an array of Los Angeles businesses design festive pumpkin plots where families come to buy a pumpkin and kick off the holiday season.

Over a dozen large pumpkin patches appear in Los Angeles every fall, many of which turn into Christmas tree batches within weeks. Far from the rural settings where pumpkins are actually grown, these urban pumpkin patches usually make up for the lack of pastoral authenticity with photo exhibits and a range of family activities.


“We’ve always had a straw maze and a petting zoo and a bounce house,” said Lyra Marble, owner of the Mr. Bones pumpkin stable. “We also put Mr. Bones’ face on a slide and made giant inflatable bouncers (shaped like) dancing spiders.”


Founded in 1987, Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch was originally located near the Los Angeles Country Club, but later moved to West Hollywood before finally landing in Culver City, where it is located today.


Marble said the size and reach of the pumpkin has grown over the years, and today the attraction even includes elaborate pumpkin houses and a pumpkin market that sells 40 different varieties of seasonal squash, grown by farmers in Oregon and Central California.


Like many other Halloween-related businesses, Mr. Bones is looking to bounce back from a tough 2020. For the first time in over three decades, it did not open last Halloween due to the pandemic.


“To have such a long history and suddenly not open for a year is a shock to the system,” Marble said. “I just didn’t see how to do it financially and make sure everyone can stay healthy.”


According to the National Retail Federation, the number of Americans celebrating Halloween fell to 58% in 2020 from 68% in 2019, as consumer spending fell by nearly $ 1 billion.


However, with the pandemic-related safety precautions easing, industry analysts expect a rebound this year. Retail Federation predicts consumer spending will hit
10.1 billion dollars in 2021, good for a historic record.


“The opening this year will be the real test,” said Marble. “Have people forgotten us? Or are they so excited that we’re back they’re coming out? “
However, not all of the pumpkin patches were left on the sidelines in 2020, and one even made its way into space launching last year. A new pumpkin attraction at the Beverly Center, owned by Taubman Co., first opened in 2020.


Jackie Plaza, marketing director for the Beverly Center, said opening a pumpkin patch allowed mall operators to take advantage of underutilized outdoor space along
3rd Street while drawing wary visitors to crowded shopping spaces.
“We wanted to create a user-friendly experience for social distancing… to remind the community that we are there for them and that we offer these kinds of community initiatives,” Plaza said.


The attraction was successful enough that it returned this year with pumpkins also available for purchase at the mall’s concierge counters.
“We really try to give our guests the opportunity to enjoy this fall experience,” Plaza said. “You have your traditional patches outside of LA, but this is the one that’s really in the heart of town, and it offers some really fun photo and craft moments and seasonal food (events).”


Plaza said the Beverly Center has partnered with Woodland Hills-based Mr. Jack O ‘Lanterns Pumpkins to source materials for the patch, as well as the pumpkins themselves.


Mr. Jack O ‘Lanterns operates four pumpkin plots in Los Angeles, including one down the street from the Beverly Center at the Original Farmers Market. Co-owner Brandon Helfer said the business grew out of a Christmas tree selling business he started in college with his business partner Scott Sanchez.


Helfer said selling pumpkins seemed like a good way to build a more recognizable brand and make better use of temporary permits required for seasonal activities. Ultimately, Helfer said, operating a pumpkin patch came with its own set of challenges.


“It’s a completely different case,” he said. “A pumpkin patch is more kid-focused and more activity-oriented. A (Christmas tree business) basically just sells a product.
Helfer said it’s just as important to determine which experiences visitors will be interested in as it is to make sure they will be able to find the type of pumpkin they want.


“A lot of the patches have a sort of corporate vibe,” Helfer said. “With us, it’s very boutique and family-friendly. We try to get rid of things that we don’t necessarily need to give families a more intimate experience.

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