Now that it's October and hearing Michael Jackson's Thriller becomes a daily occurrence, most people are looking for a Halloween costume. For Sarah and Rick Paul, owners of Fantasy Costumes Inc., however, that's just one of their busy seasons.
"Adults are having a lot of themed parties throughout the year," said Sarah. "Roaring '20s, hippies, superheroes are always popular. Then there's Christmas with Santa costumes we rent, New Year's Eve with hats and masks, Gasparilla, Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, renaissance fairs. There's something all year long."
This constant demand for costumes is something the couple found out shortly after they opened their first store in St. Pete Beach. Rick, a magician at the time, sold magic tricks and novelties at first, but as requests poured in for costumes and decorations, the focus of the store shifted.
Twenty-seven years later (five of them in the current 3,000-square-foot location in Pinellas Park), Fantasy Costumes offers thousands of items for just about every possible occasion. If they don't, they'll let customers special order it from a catalog, free of shipping costs, so it can be bought at the regular retail price in five days when it arrives.
From simple colored masks (59 cents) to Southern belle dresses a la Gone with the Wind ($199.95), the five different rooms in the store, organized by theme, have it all, with three dressing rooms so every customer can make sure the costume fits and has all the needed accessories. To make sure that happens, the employees, dressed as Monster Girls — the latest costume trend with neon fuzzy socks and hats and light-up tutu skirts ($59.99) — will help people through the maze of fake wounds (from scars to vampire bites to eyes popped out of their sockets), wigs in every cut and color and decor essentials like black-light bulbs ($2.99).
And if the posters scattered throughout are not enough inspiration, there's always the store's Facebook page, where thankful customers post photos of their outfits in action.