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Gaslight Costume Shoppe’s business back from the dead this Halloween

Customers are filling the Gaslight Costume Shoppe this Halloween after the pandemic made 2020 a quiet year.
Posted at 11:33 PM, Oct 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 02:33:10-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The week leading up to Halloween is the busiest week of the year at Gaslight Costume Shoppe in Tucson.

But last year, COVID-19 canceled most costume parties and and celebrations. The store was quiet and the staff had been reduced down to the bare minimum after lay-offs at the start of the pandemic.

This year feels a lot less scary. Manager Renee Cloutier says there’s now a full staff in place and business is near pre-pandemic levels, and has “at least doubled” since this time last year.

“Feels normal in here, like we got a lot of business and people waiting in line,” said Cloutier, who called this week “exhausting.”

The store is different from other costume shops because most of its collection are costumes for rent that were previously worn by actors in productions at the adjacent Gaslight Theatre.

Cloutier, who is also the Gaslight Theatre’s costume designer, says there are more than 40 years of costumes and accessories in the store or in storage that are available for rent.

The connection with the theatre helped the store survive the economic turmoil of 2020.

“We’re designing and building and operating the theatre, we need to be here anyway,” Cloutier said. “But it gives us a unique quality of costume, too, cause it’s all from our theatre stock. We do sell packaged costumes, but all the other stuff we have is theatrical costumes we put on stage. So it’s nice stuff.”

That wide variety of costumes is also helping the store handle certain Halloween item shortages due to ongoing global supply chain disruptions brought on by the pandemic.

“Simple stuff like double-side sticky tape that people use to put on facial hair or wigs and so forth,” Cloutier said. “Fake weapons, can’t get that. There’s some stockings and gloves and stuff. It’s just not here.”

What is in-store is still attracting customers from Phoenix to Thatcher.

“They know they can come in here and get something unique,” Cloutier said. “They’re not gonna see themselves at a party.”

“It’s really cool,” said 11-year-old Adalina Keefner. “It kind of reminds me of my aunt in Chicago. She really loves plays and stuff.”

Her younger brother James eyed costumes of America’s Founding Fathers, while Adalina found a dress she was looking for to complete a fairy costume.

“I had a vision in my mind of what I wanted,” she said. “And then I saw the dress and it was like, perfect because it was so close to what I wanted.”