Stephanie Cramer intends to stay in business through at least one more Halloween.

“Halloween is so much fun,” she said. “Come in right before [the holiday] and sit here. It’s energy. Everybody is happy. … It’s really, really fun at Halloween.”

Cramer says she plans to close the Sandy Springs branch of Psycho Sisters, her vintage clothing and costume shop located at 280 Hammond Drive, by the end of the year. The closing won’t affect the remaining Psycho Sisters shops in Little Five Points in Atlanta or in Hapeville, company representatives said.

Cramer, who bought the Sandy Springs location 14 years ago, hasn’t set a formal closing date, but says she’ll certainly hold on at least through the spooky dress-up holiday that brings big sales to Psycho Sisters shops. How important is Oct. 31 to her business? “We start counting down to Halloween on Nov. 1, the day after Halloween,” she said.

But every day can’t be Halloween. And the marketplace for vintage clothing and Halloween costumes is changing, Cramer said. Too many big chains are moving into the suburbs to hawk Halloween costumes and sell vintage clothes.

“Everything has a season and Psycho Sisters’ [business] in suburbia has been taken over by the national chains,” said Angie McLean, the store’s founder and original owner, and now CEO of Psycho Sisters Clothing LLC. “She’s really smart to close the store gracefully.”

McLean said she started the Psycho Sisters business back in the 1990s, when the nightclubs in Buckhead were booming and people wanted to dress up in fancy clothes for a night on the town. She started the business with a lookalike friend – they were the “sisters” – she had known in Florida and from metro area clubs, she said.

The Sandy Springs shop was the first Psycho Sisters to open, she said. Why Sandy Springs? Partly for its proximity to the club scene, she said. But mostly, “I just picked a place on the map,” she said.

Soon, she opened another Psycho Sisters shop in Little Five Points. Psycho Sisters branches started spreading across the metro area, from Hapeville to Cartersville. Cramer, who lived in Dunwoody, was a regular customer of the Sandy Springs shop, the two women said.

Fourteen years ago, when McLean decided she’d spread herself too thin and that she needed to sell the Sandy Springs shop, Cramer happened to be looking for a business to move into. “I needed something,” she said. “It fell right into my lap.”

She had just had her first child, she said. Owning and operating the shop meant she could bring her child to work with her. “I wanted something where I didn’t need to day care my child. I went in one day and saw a for sale sign. I called my husband and said, ‘Sisters is for sale. I’m buying it!’ I raised my daughter in the store…

“It’s been a wonderful journey. I think it made [my daughters] very special children because they grew up with shoppers coming in.”

Psycho Sisters still is crammed with Halloween costumes – Harry Potters and Elvises and Disney princesses and “Star Wars” outfits for the kids, and nurses and showgirls and other more adult disguises for the grownups – but Cramer says some of her customers have changed through the years.

Nowadays, she said, older women drop by the shop to try out jewelry because they’ve never had their ears pierced. Psycho Sisters still sells clasp earrings. At the same time, teenagers come in to check out the racks of vintage tops and skirts, she said.

“Sandy Springs has changed so much,” she said. “This shop was more funky 14 years ago. I’m still trying to keep it funky and fun.”
Besides, after 14 years of running her own shop, Cramer decided the time had come to try something new.

Her daughters now are at an age where she wants to spend more time with them after school. And she and her husband, who remodels houses, are talking of working together in a real-estate-based business.

“I’m ready for a life change,” she said. “It’s not a midlife crisis, it’s a life change. I love doing this, but I’m ready for a change.

“I think I could do well at real estate. It’s something that interests me.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.