Spooky sips and sweets: Sisters share why they're passionate about Halloween
RIPLEY — They didn't celebrate Halloween growing up — they were pastor's kids. Now, the inseparable duo celebrates the haunting holiday every day of the year.
Charessa Wilkinson and Amber Mouser own and operate Ripley's only coffee house and ice cream parlor: Hallowbeans and I Scream Sundae. Each shop embraces Halloween with haunting menu items and decorations like the headless horseman.
Halloween became Charessa Wilkinson's favorite holiday after she had children. Growing up, she would always have a big birthday party, and those are some of her most precious childhood memories. She wanted her kids to have the same thing.
So she picked Halloween.
How did the spooky shops come to life?
Wilkinson loves being a hostess. She would decorate and set out themed snacks for the kids in the garage and make an entirely different setup for the adults in the house.
Her love for the holiday blossomed with each party she threw. In 2018, after attending a haunt in Frazier's Bottom, she had a light bulb moment — she was going to bring a haunted house to Jackson County.
After the haunt that inspired Wilkinson closed down, she bought all of the equipment and decorations for $3,000. With a sideshow theme, the Jackson County haunt, which took place in a unit next to Rent-A-Center in Ripley, was a thrill-seekers paradise.
There were 25 rooms in the 5,000 square-foot obis — all were pieced together with plywood and Wilkinson's vision. Dozens of people worked the touch-allowed haunt.
Workers would grab people's arms, legs and even drag them down hallways. Wilkinson loved it. This 2017 freak show was just the beginning, but once Halloween was over it felt like something was missing. They decided to try something new.
In 2018, the sisters opened Scream Sundae, and another one of Wilkinson's dreams came true.
Wilkinson has three breathing children and I Scream Sundae is like her fourth. The name isn't from the classic "I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream for Ice Cream" song — it's actually inspired by a song called "I Scream Sunday" from One Bad Pig, a Christian rock band.
The ice cream parlor is known for its crazy milkshakes — known as screams — and it's die-hard Halloween theme. But the duo has stuck with their faith-filled roots by not allowing any witchcraft or demonic decorations or themes to their shops.
Everything in the shop is spooky, even the bathrooms, which have black lights and maybe even a clown statue waiting for customers.
I Scream Sundae is located on the bottom floor of the Sold Sisters building, and its sister shop Hallowbeans resides upstairs. Mouser has always dreamed of having her own coffee shop, and that came true last year.
Hallowbeans is family-friendly, but it has a more mature Halloween theme with boarded-up windows, zombie heads on stakes and plenty of mirrors with fake blood spatters.
Mouser likes to call Hallowbeans a coffee house instead of a coffee shop because the upstairs portion of the building used to be an apartment. When customers walk into the shop they're greeted by the headless horseman, a table and menus to their left and the bar straight ahead. There are three additional seating areas on either side of the counter — those used to be the bedrooms.
Wilkinson's love for Halloween is contagious. She's instilled an appreciation for the holiday in Mouser, who now says Halloween is one of her favorite holidays.
Before they opened the ice cream and coffee shops, they knew they had to pick a theme and stick with it. For Wilkinson, picking a theme was the easiest part. Most of the decorations upstairs and downstairs are from the haunted house.
"Everything needs a theme," Mouser said. "It's fun, it's awesome, we're really into it and all that kind of stuff, but in the end, it's a marketing tool."
But they'll have fun with it. Even though Halloween is an everyday event for them, Wilkinson and Mouser like to add snippets of other holidays in the shops, too. Every Christmas, for example, they'll put a Santa hat on the headless horseman, offer Christmas specials like a ralphie and Christmas vacation scream.
In the red
The sweet shops don't bring in any additional income, Wilkinson said. Oftentimes, it costs the sisters to operate them, but they don't care.
"There's no reason for us to do it," Wilkinson said. "We're not making money at it — we're losing money. It's just for the love of it."
Both have always enjoyed creating and trying new things and the coffee house and ice cream shop are no different. When either shop gets busy, it's common to see Wilkinson or Mouser behind the counter, washing dishes, taking orders or cleaning up. They may not make money from the ice cream or coffee, but they have made connections for their realty business.
Both Mouser and Wilkinson love interacting with people. As long as they get to stay active in the community, they'll continue to serve ice cream, coffee and smiles.
— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.