Jon Goldstein, the owner of the Piedmont Avenue Pumpkin Patch, knows a lot about squash and gourds—and he loves Halloween.
Like most, his love for all things spooky began when he was a kid, even if his favorite Halloween costume back then—a cow—was anything but scary. Goldstein also loved to decorate his childhood home and would find unsuspected household items to achieve the perfect haunted house.
“I would use the dishwasher, crates, and everything else I could find,” he recalled.
Goldstein’s fascination with the holiday never subsided, and he’s operated his seasonal outdoor pumpkin patch and Halloween store on Piedmont Avenue since 1996, originally at the corner of Piedmont Avenue and Pleasant Valley. When the lot sold in 2004, and wanting to stay in the neighborhood, he secured a commercial space next to J. Miller Flowers (4414 Piemdont Ave.), with an outdoor space in the back that normally functions as a driveway and parking lot—perfect for a pop-up pumpkin patch.
On the day The Oaklandside visited, a customer picked up decorative skulls and chatted with Goldstein about how much she loves coming to the store to shop every year. Not long after, a local daycare group stopped by to snap photos of its toddlers at the patch.
“I still get a few first-timers, but it’s probably 60-70% people who have been coming here for years,” Goldstein said.
From giant bats with 8-foot wingspans to a life-size zombie doll that Goldstein has to disguise so as not to scare young children, the Piedmont Pumpkin Patch has it all.
Toy spiders, fake spider webs, and carving kits are among the most sought-after items. “A few people like the gory things,” Goldstein said. “I put them up high so they’re not kid-eye level.”
Halloween costume popularity, he says, varies year by year depending on what is trending. A few years ago, he said, people were searching for mustaches to dress up as the Jason Sudeikis hit character, Ted Lasso. This year, he’s seen an increase in girls wanting to dress up as “weird Barbie”—a character played by actress Kate McKinnon in this year’s blockbuster Barbie movie.
Besides his extensive knowledge about pumpkins and everything Halloween, he also knows random movie facts.
“You know the song, I’m just Ken (from the Barbie soundtrack)? Did you know Slash from Guns N’ Roses played guitar on that song?” he said. “There’s some big names attached to that song.”
Once you’ve passed Goldstein’s vast selection of funny, gory, and witchy items, you’ll be greeted by a sea of golden straw covered with stacks of hay adorned by pumpkins of various colors and sizes.
Goldstein explains that gourd pumpkins—the ones that come in colors other than orange—are not edible but are great for decor. He points out another type of gourd that makes the perfect maraca. The gourd should be left to dry, ensuring it doesn’t get any dings so it doesn’t rot. Once dried, he said, you have a natural musical instrument.
Goldstein also has plenty of advice when it comes to carving a jack-o’-lantern: Draw your design on the pumpkin first, and carve it no sooner than three days before Halloween. Using hairspray inside the pumpkin might make it last a week.
Goldstein begins setting up the store right around Labor Day. The pumpkins start coming at the end of September from places like Half Moon Bay and Escalon in San Joaquin County.
Just a few feet away from the pumpkin patch, he constructs a haunted house that’s guaranteed to give you a scare. His “regular” job is as a sound engineer, which provides him with the skill to produce impressive audio effects that can easily compete with those at other more elaborate haunted houses. Work on the haunted house begins in August, and it officially opens in October.
The business remains open until the first week in November, and any leftover pumpkins get donated to the Oakland Zoo to feed the animals. Goldstein was one of the first to donate pumpkins to the zoo. Now, he says, many other patches from the region contribute.
“If you go to the zoo in November and you drive past the parking lot, There’s about a quarter mile solid of pumpkins,” he said.
Throughout the Halloween season, kids from different schools, daycares, and families flock to visit and shop. Goldstein also delivers pumpkins and sets up patches for commercial clients. The goal, he said, is to have others love and enjoy Halloween as much as he does and continue providing fun activities for families.
When you stop by, you might catch Goldstein wearing a bright orange t-shirt featuring a smiling black jack-o’-lantern. Or, if you’re lucky, you’ll see him in his full costume—which has yet to be disclosed.
“This has been my dream since childhood,” he said.
The Piedmont Pumpkin Patch (free), the store, and the haunted house ($10) are open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. through the first week in November, 4414 Piedmont Ave. Call 510-967-9363 for pumpkin delivery and group reservations.
You can see other pumpkin patch locations in the East Bay here.
Correction: the name of the store is Piedmont Avenue Pumpkin Patch