Bethany Clough

Closing: Fresno costume and party store to sell last plastic lobster decoration

Shopper Carolina Barboza looks down from the second floor as she shops for bargains at Valley Novelty, which is closing after 63 years.
Shopper Carolina Barboza looks down from the second floor as she shops for bargains at Valley Novelty, which is closing after 63 years. jwalker@fresnobee.com

After 63 years, downtown Fresno costume and party shop Valley Novelty is closing.

The store, at 2902 Ventura St., is planning to close Jan. 16. An 80 percent off sale is rapidly thinning the merchandise on the shelves, leaving behind an odd collection of items ranging from big red plastic lobster decorations to foam heads that once held wigs.

When fully stocked the store carried costumes, wigs and other Halloween accessories. It also sold decorations and favors for all kinds of events: Graduations, quincéañeras, birthdays, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, weddings and baptisms (with trinkets in both English and Spanish).

Why is it closing?

Not enough business, says manager Maria Betancourt, who has worked at the store for more than 27 years.

We had a little bit of everything you need for a party.

Maria Betancourt

“They all go to the north side or the Dollar Trees,” she says of customers. “It’s not the same quality.”

Indeed, Fresno and other cities have seen an explosion of dollar stores in recent years. They carry many similar party decorations at cheap prices.

“We can’t compete with Party City or other stores,” she says.

Valley Novelty has faced competition from the city’s three Party City stores – locally owned by the franchisee who also owns Professor Toy – and temporary Halloween stores. Another costume shop, Fun Factory, also downtown last year.

Unlike its competitors, Valley Novelty wasn’t a sleek, modern store. Instead it had more of a warehouse feel with a warren of aisles for customers to explore. That was likely part of the store’s charm for some customers, but also a detriment to those who wanted something different.

The store has moved around since the 1950s, originally opening on P Street, says the manager. The building burned in in 1985 and moved to another spot until the building was rebuilt two years later, she says.

The store has been busy in recent days with customers snapping up extreme deals. Santa suits, for example, that normally cost $298 were selling for $57.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough

  Comments