What Happened to Sinister Shadows, Part 2

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017 06:04 pm GMT -5

So, where do we go from here?

Over past 3+ years we have invested more than $100,000 in building and equipment upgrades that no one gets to see. We have continued to embrace the name and feel of the Hurricane while slowing taking it in a new direction from within.

The frustrating part was that I felt compelled to keep moving forward with some of the ideas and entertainment elements I wanted to add to the restaurant and tavern, yet had to contend with a business that requires 80 hours a week of focus.

On top of that was the part I already mentioned. Hurricane Pizza Grill is NOT a tourist location. We live by our regulars. We love our regulars. We KNOW our regulars… and our regulars would not want to sit in a theme restaurant. But I didn’t want to own “just a pizza place”. (Did you ever hear that old joke where someone says “Opinions are like ass-holes, every has one!” Well, in the restaurant business, there is a twist on that same joke – “Pizza places are like ass-holes, everyone has one!”)

We thought of different ideas – but each and every one required a leap into the category of a theme restaurant.
Haunted Houses, Tiki Bars, Rainforest, Country Western… Once you pick one, you’re committed and as much as I LOVE the Rainforest Cafe, Trader Sam’s and the like, none of them felt right. I’ve grown to know this area and those ideas just won’t work.

How can I share my creative side without overwhelming people? How can I have a theme bar without a theme? For three years I thought about this and couldn’t come up with an answer so I plugged away at Sinister Shadows keeping it on life support while I worked at a restaurant I liked, but felt the creative side was missing.

Then, out of the blue I had the blessing of talking with Eric Princz. A friend and creative engineer of Haunted House and Amusement Attractions. I was inquiring about an effect he built for a client and was asking if he could build one for my bar.

(Again, I had no idea how I would use it – only that I wanted one! You’ll have to come by the Hurricane to see what it is once it is done.)

Eric then gave me the idea I have been waiting for for three years: The theme is no theme! (Enter Seinfeld joke here!)

He gave me the idea for a backstory and explanation for a restaurant with a bunch of oddities in it that are not necessarily connected. The story is of man that was inspired by the tales of people like Robert Ripley, so he went out on his own to seek out the wonders of the world.

During his travels, he amassed quite a collection of curiosities and artifacts that each has it’s very own back story and fascinating attribute. This collection made its way here to Columbia PA in the hears of Lancaster’s antique community. You can see the items here at his restaurant. Hurricane Pizza Grill is the home of “Chris’ Collections of Curiosities”.

Unfortunately the collecting bug has bit the owner again – so he back out in the world seeking out new and fascinating items to display at his restaurant.

So that’s the gist of it. We’re still working on the finer details. But it’s a great way to have little displays and attractions that are not overwhelming to the regulars, yet would be interesting enough to be worth a visit for the people that visit this area from out of town.

This would be done carefully so to not be too serious… but not too fake. There will be a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. Maybe a mix between the backstory of Dinoland in Animal Kingdom and Ripley’s Believe it or not! (Eric calls it “Chris’ Believe it or Else!”)

Think of it like when you go to T.G.I. Fridays and they have all that random crap on the wall that does nothing. My place will have crap on the wall that is actually interesting. It may not all move or do something…. but each piece will have a story behind it.

* This restaurant could be in any town the “traveler” decided to stop and leave some of his collection. (Or in a family entertainment center yet to be built.)
* I can easily see coloring books and little trinkets for kids themed to the story.
* Frequent customer program called the “adventurer’s club”
* Gimmicks or tricks that don’t go over well are easily eliminated and changed out without hurting the theme.
* A cute little back story / attraction pamphlets at tourist areas in Lancaster.
* Different styles of food could be featured when the traveler comes across a new cuisine from far away place.

The other thing that I am addressing during this transition is that fact that my upstairs dining room is bland and very unwelcoming. I will be installing a bar (high class tavern) area in the top floor so that we have a quiet / warm whisky tavern upstairs and downstairs can focus on the karaoke / bands / dance parties that go over so well down there. (May times we have people that LOVE the Hurricane but don’t like the entertainment, so they leave because there is no “quiet” area to go to.)

At that time, I may also want to re-brand the current bar with a new name to separate it from the top floor. The previous owners called it “The Underground” and treated it like a completely separate business. I can understand why they did it, and would like to do the same thing. Also, I need to start entertaining the idea of a name change as “Hurricane” is also the name of another Wing Restaurant that has been slowly making their way up the east coast and no have a location in New York. LINK: (Hurricane Wings)

I can’t say anything has jumped out at me as far as names go yet – but I know the people I have worked with will inspire the right name so that the restaurant can be more than just a restaurant and move forward. If you think you “get it” or have any ideas – please feel free to share them! The whole reason good projects turn GREAT is because people share ideas.

What Happened to Sinister Shadows, Part 1

Thursday, September 28th, 2017 08:09 pm GMT -5

So… what happened to Sinister Shadows?

I can’t answer that question without first explaining what the plan for Sinister Shadows is. (Yes, there IS still a plan!)

Sinister Shadows was always meant to be more than just a family oriented haunted house attraction, It was to be a large indoor entertainment facility.
Of course the main attraction would be the haunted house… But we all know that haunted houses are quite seasonal at best.
So, in addition to a haunted house ride… The facility was also going to have an indoor “haunted house themed” mini glow golf course, a gift shop, and a gothic haunted house themed restaurant. (think “rain forest café” meets “Disney’s haunted mansion”)

Because the goal was to open one large facility with all the separate businesses functioning at the same time, We
approached the design and planning of each area simultaneously.

This was a very large challenge for a handful of people to attempt to do without any large financial backing.

Nonetheless, team Sinister Shadows plugged away bit by bit and planned every square inch and every detail as if we were opening tomorrow.

During that planning, we realized we needed to get a liquor license and a lot of restaurant equipment!

So, ironically while we were sitting in a Rain Forest Café… We decided to start looking for a restaurant that had a liquor license that we could buy.

That restaurant ended up being Hurricane Pizza Grill. A two-story 6500 square-foot building that was home to a pizza restaurant, pizza delivery service, and tavern all under one roof.

With all of the props and stunts we had built and planned for our future restaurant… We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to test build our haunted house themed restaurant.

Shortly after purchasing the restaurant, we realized that the location wasn’t “touristy enough” to support a theme restaurant. Not only would re-theming the restaurant be a bad idea, we realized that we didn’t know enough about the restaurant business to even consider building a new one at that point.

Here’s an important point to keep in mind, a haunted house is rarely enough to stand on its own as a business. So we had to make absolutely certain that a part of the business would be able to pay the bills 365 days a year… and the weight of that responsibility would fall on the shoulders of the restaurant.

Over the next couple of years we gained more of an education than we could have learned in any other way.

Unfortunately that meant that some of the other plans for Sinister Shadows had to be put on the back burner.

Remember, I do not know of any successful haunted houses that are run by people who don’t have some other business or job in their life. Every single individual stand alone haunted house (i’m not talking about ones that are within amusement parks) is typically a side business or hobby for somebody… or only a short-lived business that soon vanishes.

So, this was a necessary side trip.

Over the past three years, the Hurricane Pizza Grill has become a viable business with more than 20 employees that count on it to feed their families and pay their bills.

We’ve won awards for our food, customer service, and continue to grow faster than any business has in this location.

Every single piece of the Sinister Shadows project is still intact… Sitting just where it was…. ready to fulfill it’s mission when called upon.

If we would have built the facility as we originally envisioned… (knowing now what I didn’t know back then) There’s no doubt in my mind it would’ve been out of business in the first year.

I now have a more sustainable business plan, and have successfully tested out many things I couldn’t have tried without having a functioning restaurant to try them in.

There’s still a haunted house to be built. That hasn’t changed.

PART TWO to follow!….

It’s been 83 days…

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 09:15 pm GMT -5

It has been 83 days since my last update on the sinister shadows project.

It is amazing the things that can transpire in the course of just three months.

I promised one of these days I’m going to make a large update and explain the State of the Union to everyone….

From my long-term plan, to the failed fundraising event… I have a lot to share!

But in the meantime, here is a very quick update and another peek at a character we are developing for the haunted house ride.

As you can probably tell, this character is going to be a woman!

Obviously… It’s going to take some custom tailoring of clothing to fit her… Capacious body.

One thing I will tell everybody, while my long-term plans are unchanged… there are some business opportunities I have come across that might take me on a little bit of a side trip.

I will keep everyone updated as much as possible. Tell then…

Stay spooky, Chris


Vincent, part two

Monday, December 9th, 2013 08:22 pm GMT -5

As usual, I don’t have much time for an update.
I just took delivery of the second sculpture for Vincent.
This is the more friendly style of Vincent… The first version I shall call irritated Vincent, and the last version which we will have done shortly will be the very angry version.
Well, I can’t say much more without giving away plot secrets.
So, here’s a picture…