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Costume shop continues to see strong sales

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As about 40 customers browsed Halloween costumes on the second floor of Old Sacramento’s Evangeline’s Costume Mansion Monday, Manager Jen Kossmann remarked that business was slow, as the rain kept people at home.

Costumes for adults have grown in popularity over the past five years, and Kossmann said this year was no exception, with the store expanding its costume mansion opening hours from as early as February. Traditionally, the costume mansion opens around August.

“We’ve just been really busy, and we normally only open (the costume shop) to escort people up in the off season,” Kossmann said. “This year, we had so many people going up there, it just made sense to open it all the time.”

The staff does not track exactly how many costumes are sold – a daunting prospect given that some people piece costumes together, some buy complete sets and others might just buy an accessory – but Kossmann said a rough guess is that the number is “in the tens of thousands.”

The ground floor of the store contains gifts, games and toys, while the second and third floors house the costume mansion and are accessed by an elevator or stairs.

October is the shop’s busiest month, and approximately 75 temporary employees were hired to augment the regular staff of 30 to 40. Extended hours mean the store is now open from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Selling well this year are costumes related to TV shows and movies, as well as a few older ones that have surged for other reasons.

“Stewardess uniforms are really popular this year,” Kossmann said, noting that the TV show “Pan Am,” which features flight attendants, is doing well.

Other favorite costumes this year include zombies, medieval-themed costumes and even a mask modeled after the mobile game “Angry Birds.”

“Gypsy costumes are also really popular this year,” Kossmann said. “I don’t know any real reason for it other than that we have a lot of really cute gypsy costumes this year.”

Despite what might be popular, Kossmann advised those seeking costumes to come in without a set idea of what they want to be and let something in the store inspire them.

“You can get a lab coat for $15 or $20 and maybe add a stethoscope to it for a good costume that’s really cheap, or you can go all out and really customize something,” she said.

She added that people can make zombie costumes as easily as tearing up clothes they already have and then applying makeup.

“Makeup really is what makes a zombie costume,” she said. “There are lots of great videos on YouTube that show you how to do the makeup.”

Lauren Gregory, a 20-year-old Sacramentan, browsed the store Monday trying to decide what she will be for Halloween.

“I have no idea yet,” she said. “I wanted to come here because I read online that it’s haunted and used to be a brothel, and I like that kind of creepy history.”

Kossmann said the upper floors of the Gold Rush-era building were used as a boarding house for a long time and did serve as a brothel-type business at one point.

As far as hauntings, she said she has not personally seen any evidence, but some employees have.

“It’s things like stuff falling or lights going on or off that shouldn’t, or hearing something upstairs when you know you’re the only one there,” she said.

Gregory’s friend, 20-year-old Lisa Jones of Sacramento, said she plans to dress up as a biker.

“I don’t like to do the really girly things for a costume,” she said. “They have a really great selection here.”

Brothers Robert and Max Hernandez, 27 and 30, came up from Stockton to visit the shop because of the selection and the setting – Old Sacramento.

“They’ve got a lot more stuff for the ladies, but it’s a really good shop,” Robert Hernandez said as he perused a wall of pirate costumes.

Max Hernandez added that he comes to Evangeline’s every year.

“The selection is a lot better here than in Stockton,” he said, adding that he will be dressing up as Joker from “Batman.”

Kossmann said shipments are still coming in, and if shoppers don’t see what they want, they should ask.

“We have two floors of inventory, and there’s a lot packed into it,” she said.

Evangeline’s Costume Mansion is located at 113 K St.

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.

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