‘It grew into a monster!’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 10, 2024

A gilley monster costume called “Dusty” made by Tayen Poplin and sold at her shop in Ironton, The Backfire Boo-tique. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

New Backfire Boo-tique specializes in creating for horror fans, haunted houses

At just 18 years old, Tayen Poplin has started a brick and mortar store, The Backfire Boo-tique, in Ironton, to sell her wares — spooky stuff for both haunted houses and less casual affairs.

The store name comes from being a side to her online business, Project Backfire.

A scary chicken lady mask crafted by Tayen Poplin. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

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“We make props and animatronics for haunted houses,” she explained. “There is a little bit of everything in here.”

That includes elaborate costumes, scary baby dolls, masks, shirts and loud sirens to scare the heck out of you.

Poplin got her start young in the horror business. She was born and raised in Ironton but the family moved to Florida when she was 9.

She started acting at haunted attractions at age 8 at Fallsburg.

“I acted there one night and I was terrified of everyone there,” Poplin said. “When I

moved to Florida and I didn’t start haunt acting again until I was 13.”

By 14, she was in charge of running her own trail and crew. By 15, she was the manager of the trail, with a crew of 45 who were scaring around 2,000 people a night.

At 16, she was acting as the assistant show manager at the haunted attraction.

When she became the trail manager, she enlisted her dad into building props, because they didn’t have them and they didn’t have the funds to buy it from someone else.

Backpacks available at The Backfire Boo-tique. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

“Then my thought was that, if we needed it, other people probably need it too,” Poplin said.

And then Poplin took that idea and began Project Backfire as a school project.

“I looked at my mom (Crystal) and told her that I wanted to do something big for my senior year, because I had previously done haunt acting,” Poplin said, adding her dad, Brent, “knows how to build animatronics and things, maybe this is the route we should be taking. And she said all right.”

The original plan was just to build things at home and sell things online. Then she got an invitation to set up a free booth at the horror convention, Fear Expo in Owensboro, Kentucky. She made enough of a profit at Fear Expo to be able to go to Transworld in St. Louis, which is one of the biggest haunted attraction trade shows and did really well there.

“That’s when we realized there was a huge industry for it and we did even more research on it and it grew into a monster,” Poplin said, with a laugh.

The store stocks handcrafted Forevermore dolls by Pumpkin Pulp. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

She re-invested the profits from the trade show to expand her stock and when the family moved back to Ironton, to open The Backfire Boo-tique at 106 Third St. on Jan. 1.

“We wanted to come back home and there are a lot of haunted attractions here,” Poplin said. “And we are closer to a lot of haunted conventions here. And people here are a lot nicer.”

She said the purpose of the boo-tique was two-fold, one to sell their wares and to have a workspace to build their wares.

Poplin said while there are some mall stores that sell the “not so normal stuff,” they don’t sell what she has.

“So I realized that people like the weird and odd things and I always wanted a storefront to sell and I wanted it to be a workspace out of my house,” she said. “And also, if a local haunted attraction needs something and can’t wait a month for something to come in, we can build it in a couple days.”

The store is open 11 a.m–6 p.m., Tuesday–Saturday.