Pittsburgh's House of the Dead caters to zombie craze
To hear Chuck Cramer tell the story, Pittsburgh wouldn't stand a chance in a zombie attack. Tunnels would be clogged, bridges would collapse and finding higher ground would be next to impossible.
“There'd be no getting out of here,” Cramer says with a chuckle.
Until we can come up with a better escape plan, Pittsburgh appears to be safe enough for what is believed to be the first zombie-theme retail store.
It's here at the House of the Dead shop where you can buy T-shirts (including those of the “Monroeville Zombies,” the fictitious hockey team made popular in 2008's “Zack & Miri Make a Porno”), graphic novels, DVDs and other fun items that celebrate the undead and the movies that made them so popular.
There's even edible chocolate-candy brains and other brow-raising zombie stocking stuffers, just in time for the holidays.
“Hollywood is seeing that zombies are popular, but in Pittsburgh, they've always had a following,” says Cramer, who co-owns the shop with Stu Neft. “We're the zombie capital of the world, so why not?”
Cramer and Neft opened the shop Sept. 15 at Butler and Main streets in Lawrenceville, occupying what was, at one time, an old clock- and watch-repair store.
Decorated with movie posters and blood-dripped zombie mannequins, House of the Dead pays homage to the deep zombie roots left in Pittsburgh following the success of George Romero's films, which include the 1978 cult classic “Dawn of the Dead.” That film was shot, in part, at Monroeville Mall on a $500,000 budget, but grossed more than $50 million worldwide, making it, perhaps, one of the most-successful zombie flicks ever.
The pair admits it took a while to convince a bank to loan them money to start a business that specializes in slow-moving re-animates. But they think the shop fits better in Pittsburgh than anywhere else.
Plans are in the works to show an in-store screening of the season premiere of AMC's “The Walking Dead” on Sunday.
So, why do stories about the brain-noshing undead resonate with so many people?
“People love to see the human dynamic,” says Neft, who gave up his gig managing a lacrosse-goods store to help run House of the Dead full-time. “They want to see how humans react in an apocalyptic situation.”
Cramer and Neft have gotten the word out about House of the Dead by setting up booths at last month's zombie-theme “Run for Your Lives” 5-K in Butler, and the Horror Realm film convention in Bethel Park.
This won't be a seasonal fad, Cramer and Neft say. While they expect to see a spike in sales until Halloween, they're open to the idea of expanding to include all things horror-related at some point, if things take off.
“If a store that caters to the zombie culture and zombie phenomenon is to be successful anywhere ... Pittsburgh's the place for it,” Cramer says.
Chris Ramirez is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5682.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Islanders outwork Penguins to sweep back-to-back meetings
- Penguins minor league notebook: Pouliot impresses early in season
- Egypt’s beleaguered tourism industry bounces back
- For Steelers, a fight to finish for playoff berth
- Starkey: No explaining Steelers, AFC North
- Leak of grand jury information could cost Attorney General Kane
- Springdale Library to pay rent to borough
- Pitt football notebook: Panthers’ depth at RB, offensive line shows against Syracuse
- The bullet inside your body ‘becomes a part of you’
- Woman on dating site looks too good to be true: How to vet that pic
- Allegheny County buck may prove to be state’s largest ever taken