Thirty-three years ago, Theo Landi’s sister-in-law Geri Sanicola said to her, “This town needs a party shop.” Mrs. Landi replied, “You find a spot and maybe we’ll do it.”
And what a spot they found: What had been Lona Rubenstein’s real estate business and Alice McDonald’s Bermuda Party Rentals before that — right on Park Place at the edge of the Reutershan parking lot in East Hampton Village. The landlord, Donald McDonald, was happy to have Mrs. Landi and her cousin. They were local, he had told her, and he knew they would pay the rent. He also knew, Mrs. Landi said, that to keep his tenants he had to keep the rent affordable. The Party Shoppe is now in its fourth decade in the same spot.
Having grown up in a large Greek family among Greek, Irish, and Jewish immigrants, and having married into an Italian one, Mrs. Landi and her cousin were both veteran retailers. Mrs. Landi had worked in real estate but hated it and had also worked for the File Box, which sold office supplies.
She and her cousin had a lot of experience giving parties, mainly for their families, but they didn’t have a clue about selling party supplies. So as a first step they got a poster from Rubie’s Costume Company in Hempstead, and wrote on it “If you think you might be interested in costumes, call me,” with her phone number added. The yield on that idea was a book full of names of potential customers and the costumes they were looking for.
The rest, as they say, is history, at least, once they went west to stock up, which they did handily, buying a whole wall of catering items after asking themselves: “Would we use these things?”
Opening the store with a bridge table, a metal cash box, and stands for the masks, they sold so much that they went back to the same shop, filled eight carts, and started selling costumes as well. In Chicago, where they went to a Halloween show, they bought $20,000 worth of costumes, Power Rangers being the biggest seller for four years. After that, they went on a regular basis to Halloween party shows in Chicago and Atlanta.
Mrs. Landi had worked at Martin’s Department Store in Huntington at age 17, in every department, and knew where everything was. “I have a photographic memory,” she said, but she also has a genius for coming up with ideas, marketing, and working with customers toward the best outcome for everyone.
At the beginning, the biggest seasons for the business were New Year’s Eve, the summer in general, the Fourth of July, and Halloween, but the internet changed the Halloween scene and now the store sells, in addition to its catering section and party inventory, only Halloween costume accessories, such as wigs, masks, weapons, makeup, and spooky decorations. And of course, said Mrs. Landi, “Everyone knows our cards.”