The store's name, Hokus Pokus, isn't a reference to the Halloween Disney movie starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker as Salem witches back from the dead.
It's owner Giles Taylor's former clown name. Taylor, now 59, opened Hokus Pokus as a Mount Pleasant magic shop in 1979 when he was 18 years old. On the side, he performed as a magician and clown at birthday parties and events around town.
"I had $500 in my pocket and nobody told me 'no,'" he says.
Over time, the store has changed locations multiple times, eventually making its way over to West Ashley — Ashley Plaza, then Northbridge Shopping Center, then Savannah Highway. Now, it's situated on S.C. Highway 61, with the iconic black limo hearse that sits out front and giant spooky inflatables that appear as the season changes to fall.
Taylor also has widened its inventory, expanding into costumes and party favors. At one point, Taylor sold balloon bouquets; at another time, paper products. For many years, Hokus Pokus offered costume rentals in addition to regular retail.
Now, you'll find rows of bagged Halloween costumes, a selection of multicolored wigs, specialty makeup, ruffly tutus, pirate coats, top hats, Mardi Gras beads. The list goes on.
"I started the party business in this town," says Taylor, who grew up in Mount Pleasant and attended Wando High School.
Jason Olier, owner of Jason's Jump Castles and fellow Charleston native, remembers Taylor as a "famous local clown." One summer, when Olier was a teenager, he tried to rent a snow cone machine from Taylor to sell some icy treats on Folly Beach and make some extra cash. When he found out he needed a license and encountered other roadblocks, Taylor took him under wing. For a while, Olier was Taylor's assistant clown.
"In the '90s, I was this kid with tattoos and dreadlocks and I didn’t fit in, but Giles didn’t care," Olier recalls. "He mentored me and gave me a lot of confidence."
Olier also worked at Hokus Pokus, selling magic kits and, later, costumes.
"It was fun working in there, because there were so many different people coming in," he says. "Comedians, jugglers, variety acts, entertainers — just talking with them was fascinating."
Olier says that Charleston folks called them "backyard carnies." He has embraced the nickname as a full-time jump castle business operator.
Hokus Pokus is a Lowcountry staple, a throwback to a former era and a landmark that people have compared to the Coburg Cow, Taylor says.
At times in the past, Taylor opened satellite stores in Summerville and Mount Pleasant. But competition from franchise pop-up shops Spirit Halloween and Halloween Express, which fill empty storefronts for a month, has made the satellite stores impractical to run.
"They try to take the wind out of our sails," Taylor says. "But, you know, I've been here long enough that I don't worry about them anymore."
Hokus Pokus, with its huge range of themed costumes, is open year-round.
"Some people think we're a Halloween store," Taylor says. "We're actually a costume shop."
Of course, he isn't mad about the influx of customers in October. And he's open to new opportunities that might bring in some income.
Last year, he worked with the crew of the "Halloween" movie filming in town to provide decorations for the prom scene. He says he spent two days working to set up the scene, which included table centerpieces, a giant spider and balloon arches. He works private parties, too.
"I just like entertaining people," Taylor says.
Hokus Pokus is open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 1-6 p.m. Sunday.