Dark Delicacies – A horror-themed book and gift shop like no other

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

Del Howison opened Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA, with his wife, Sue, in 1994.
Del Howison opened Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA, with his wife, Sue, in 1994. (PHOTO BY J. KENNEY)

This is a story about two love birds with a knack for horror movies, books, soundtracks, decorations — you name it!

 Sue and Del Howison opened their store, Dark Delicacies, on West Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, CA, in 1994 due to their passion for horror. Limelight Magazine recently got the chance to interview Del and discuss his passion for the horror genre and dogs.

 “We both loved our horror collecting and had a nice collection at home of books but had a hard time finding other things that reflected our taste,” he said. “We thought maybe other people were having the same problem so we opened with our own collection and a little money and grew over the years.”

Howison has created a fun environment for people with similar interests to come and buy a wide variety of horror related collectables, books, films, jewelry, and much more. (The store even has a children’s section!). With over 20 years worth of memories to pick from, Howison talked about his favorite part of owning the shop: the people.

“The fans who have been so supportive and the people in the business who have given their time (and signatures) to help this business exist. [The late] Richard Matheson, Clive Barker, Guillermo Del Toro, [the late] Ray Harryhausen, William Friedkin, [the late] Ernest Borgnine just to name a few. We couldn’t have done this without all this support,” he said.

Howison talked about his love for the genre of horror and the fans it attracts.

“Within the horror genre you can examine anything – racism, war, bad government, even dead people and, of course, all our fears and anxieties. There is also no other genre with fans this loyal,” he said. “

Sue and Del share the responsibilities that come with owning such a shop. Del talked about what it’s like working and co-owning Dark Delicacies with his wife who is originally from Connecticut.

“24/7 you live together and work together,” he said. “We are complete opposites who join for the whole. I’m sure there are times when she doesn’t think I’m all that funny or cute,” he acknowleged.

This may be true, but just a few years back L.A. Weekly quoted Sue saying that Del is the “ringmaster”.

“The ringmaster is the dude in the spotlight. That’s me. I’m the mouth,” said Del. “But she buys everything for the store, sets up the signings [and fan Q&A’s], and handles most of the computer business and on the phone [sales]. I pay the bills and do the PR and social media.”

Howison talked about the success the store has achieved over the years. He explained why he feels, in some ways, that the shop has succeeded, and in other ways, he thinks the shop can still improve.

“In terms of horror and the fans and the people in the business, I don’t think we could ask for more,” he said. “In terms of income, we make it each month but must always work at making all our payments. If we owned our own building and could get some stability who knows? But we’ve only been at it 22 years.”

That’s right, 22 years, and still big plans ahead.

“We have just started the Dark Delicacies podcasts, which I refer to as underground and occasional, with Brigade Radio One. That podcast and the station is a new enterprise and continuing to grow and shift. We hope to grow with them,” Del said.

“We have also upped the visibility on any charity efforts we’re involved in and added to that slate with the people over at Combat Radio and Ethan Dettenmaier,” he continued. “We have also entered into an agreement with the distribution company Vega Baby to pick up and distribute horror films under the “Dark Delicacies Presents” line. Vega Baby also has an agreement with Sony for international distribution. It’s a great opportunity for indie filmmakers to have a chance at getting their film picked up by someone who can get it out there. They should contact me at my email of del@darkdel.com if they have something they want the board to look at.”

Legendary horror film composer Harry Manfredini signs a copy of the "Friday the 13th" vinyl soundtrack at a signing at Dark Delicacies. (PHOTO BY J. KENNEY)
Legendary horror film composer Harry Manfredini signs a copy of the “Friday the 13th” vinyl soundtrack at a signing at Dark Delicacies. (PHOTO BY J. KENNEY)

Howison is a people person who has attracted not only fans, but also composers and authors. Dark Delicacies host many signing for these artists. He talked about one of his favorite moments.

“I have had some wonderful experiences with many of them. A very memorable moment for me was meeting composer Brian Tyler at the soundstage at Fox Studios where he was conducting a full orchestra. Sitting in on that session was magical,” he said.

Signed Blu-rays of "Witchboard" and "Night of the Demons" at Dark Delicacies. (PHOTO BY MIKE GALLAGHER)
Signed Blu-rays of “Witchboard” and “Night of the Demons” from a Dark Delicacies signing. (PHOTO BY MIKE GALLAGHER)

Adam P. Cray, a former native of New Bedford, Mass., who currently resides in Los Angeles, had nothing but positive things to say about Dark Delicacies. Since there is no store like it on the East Coast, Cray said Dark Delicacies fills a void in the market place for horror and sci-fi fans.

“Over the years, I’ve spent many hours at Dark Delicacies browsing their selection of books, apparel, posters, and DVDs,” he said. “The store has always supported and inspired the horror community and especially its authors. At one of their many signings, I was able to meet the late Philp J. Riley and have him autograph his beautiful books on the making of “Phantom of the Opera” (1925) and “London After Midnight.”

Adam P. Cray, who authored his own book “Last Seen,” holds two books he had signed by the late Philip J. Riley on the making of “London After Midnight” and “Phantom of Opera.” (PHOTO BY JEANA N. AYALA)

Dark Delicacies website is constantly being updated. Because of this, people who may not be able to attend a signing or live far away can purchase items online. (Visit the website HERE). Howison talked about these online sales.

“At this point I would say about 30 percent of the business comes from online, but that is all pretty much concentrated into the signings off our webpage at darkdel.com,” said Del. “I do have our books up online on Bibliofind. But that only results in a few sales a month. What is hard to get a handle on are how much the online social media and store announcements drive people into the physical store when they come in from out-of-town. I hear it all the time, ‘I’ve been waiting for years to come in here.’”

The Howison’s have also managed to use their platform to help rescue animals. Del talked about about this, “I have always been involved with rescues long before I even met Sue. Since she is like-minded when we got together, animal rescue or seeing-eye dogs or whatever were some of our first charity targets.”

Howison also spoke about their relationship with The Neva Foundation and the new foundations they have been working with.

“Neva was a long time ago. They brought in the doggies and we ended up adopting two of them ourselves. The last places we worked with were Star Paws and Kitt Crusaders. Two really fine groups that do a wonderful job. People should check them out. What we usually do with them is have a fundraiser like when William Wu put out the charity book ‘Scales & Tales’ which was an anthology of stories written by a bunch of us including Marv Wolfman, Clive Barker, Joe R. Lansdale, and others including myself. People should look up William Wu Bookseller on Facebook as there may still be a few of those available,” he said.

Sue and Del Howison have a true passion for horror, and the work they do in and outside of the genre. Del concluded the interview by saying, “horror is to have a good time. Some of the best people in the world are in this field. It’s my family. Quirky to be sure. But I love them.”

For a complete list of signings and events at Dark Delicacies this October, click HERE.

Furthermore, here’s a YouTube video submitted to us by Michael Schwartz of the Return of the Living Dead signing at Dark Delicacies on January 29, 2011.

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