CONCORD — Marie Foley skirts the light-up eyeball rings, the hats with rats sticking out of them, and an exquisite black-cat nutcracker from Germany. Picking up a box of “Battery Operated Musical Skull Lawn Stakes,” she explains why her Halloween selection is the best around.
“You can go into CVS and find a garland of these. But where they have just one kind, I carry 10 kinds,” Foley says. “Not just candy corns, but bats and skulls that light up and play music. And more.”
Foley’s store is Concord Hand Designs in the center of town. A quaint arts-and-crafts shop for most of the year, it is transformed into a wild Halloween den this month, with nearly 1,500 different toys, decorations, hats, glasses, skeletal wind chimes, jack-o’-lantern serving trays, holographic ghoul mirrors, and the like.
“How do these little roaches work?” customer Anne Elton asks. In Elton’s hand sits an all-too-realistic black bug.
“You set it down, pull it back, and zoom it goes!” Foley gushes.
A miniature witch’s hat perched atop her pink and white hair, Foley loves Halloween like Dracula loves blood and has been hosting an annual blowout since 1990. (Foley manages the store with her sister, Toni Sawyer, who owns it.)
She revels in finding unique items, such as $160 handcrafted wooden black-cat nutcrackers, or top-selling Zero Blaster smoke-ring guns, which are produced by a local Concord toy company.
Her variety is, to say the least, scary: 12 types of Halloween candles; 24 kinds of Halloween-themed glasses; 51 styles of hats. Those last, of which Foley is most proud, include everything from fanciful witches’ hats to spooky holiday fascinators (“Like Princess Catherine wears!”) to berets sprouting a dozen eyeballs.
“Other stores play it safe,” Foley says. “We take risks.”
The store’s floral designer, Penny Nuse, also customizes items, be they hats, artistic Halloween door wreaths, or creepy table centerpieces.
The store, which goes equally overboard for Christmas, has developed a loyal following. Nancy Roberge, a physical therapist from Lincoln, takes her sisters there religiously when they visit from New York. This month, Roberge bought goofy bug antennae for her entire office staff to wear.
“Marie takes her choice of items to new heights. It’s a joy to go in there and see where in God’s name she found item A or item B,” Roberge says. “So much of it is her personality and sense of humor. I appreciate that.”
Indeed, first-time shoppers, beware. As Texan Lori Foster looked for a souvenir Concord T-shirt, a strange voice suddenly screeched in her ear. It belonged to the 5-foot-tall, lifelike witch statue standing next to her.
“That witch scared the bejesus out of me,” Foster said, slipping a Zero Blaster into her shopping bag.
Concord Hand Designs 33 Main St., Concord, 978-371-2118Peter DeMarco can be reached at demarco