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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Horror Fanatics Opening Avondale Shop With Collectibles, T-Shirts And More

The three founders of The Horror House are seeking donations from neighbors to open the shop and screen-printing studio on Belmont Avenue. They hope to launch in May.

Brothers Vinny Malave and Moses Gibson selling their wares at a horror convention.
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AVONDALE — A trio of horror and pop culture fanatics are striking out on their own and opening a brick-and-mortar shop in Avondale after years of selling their screen-printed T-shirts and other wares at horror conventions.

Brothers Vinny Malave and Moses Gibson, the founders of screen-printing company The Cryptic Closet, and their friend, Aaron Gaston, will open The Horror House at 2911 W. Belmont Ave. in early May.

The Horror House will sell a range of horror-themed collectibles, T-shirts and toys from brands like Neca, Terror Threads and The Cryptic Closet apparel, and wares from local artists, including Steven Luros Holliday and Adam Michaels. Malave and Gibson plan to use the shop’s basement as their 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 forthcoming horror-themed coffee shop, The Brewed.

The Horror House Shop crew launched a Kickstarter last month to help open the shop and build The Cryptic Closet screen-printing studio. The campaign has raised more than $9,300 toward its $20,000 goal.

“After taking care of the legalities, licenses and permits needed just to open the doors, we have decided to ask for help from the horror community as well as family and friends. With your funding we will be able to stock the shop and offer a lot more than originally planned,” the trio said in the campaign.

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(from left) The three founders of The Horror House, Moses Gibson, Aaron Gaston and Vinny Malave.

The shop is being 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 area. He said his family “would have horror movie marathons all year-round,” and he became obsessed with the thrilling flicks.

As a result, Malave got into wrestling, a sport that draws influence from the horror scene. For the past eight years, Malave has worked as a screen-printer at Wrestling Pro Tees, which is where he and Gibson started 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 would make random designs for myself, and the more I wore them out, the more compliments I got.”

Under the brand, which launched in 2016, the two sell apparel and accessories with cheeky depictions of horror and pop culture icons and motifs, like T-shirts with Jason from “Friday The 13th” made to look like a 3D robot and Danny DeVito as Frankenstein.

While selling their products at horror conventions across the country, Malave and Gibson came up with the idea of opening their own store — not only to grow The Cryptic Closet, but also to “sell other brands that aren’t accessible,” Malave said. The two teamed up with Gaston, who also sold at horror conventions for the brand Plug Uglie.

“There’s a lot of shows and conventions that come around once or twice a year, but as far as a set place where you can get T-shirts, collectibles and artwork, there’s really no place like that,” Malave said.

The three hoped to take over Bric a Brac’s old space on Diversey Avenue, but those plans fell through, which led them to a vacant shop about a mile north.

Malave said the Belmont Avenue space is perfect: It’s in the same neighborhood as horror- and metal-themed Bucket’O Blood Books & Records and DMen Tap, and it’s near where he and Gibson grew up.

“It was already a dream to open my own business, let alone open up one with my brother, but the fact that it’s in a spot that’s so sentimental to us is the cherry on top,” Malave said.

Once Horror House is up and running, they plan to host artist events and celebrity signings to build a community around the business, Malave said.

Fans of The Cryptic Closet have asked for years when there will be a permanent shop, and it’s thrilling to finally deliver, Malave said.

“We’re horror fans trying to make 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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