Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


The Death of the Salt Lake Costume Company

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

On the corner of 1100 East and 1700 South, The Salt Lake Costume Company had displayed costumes in its windows since before I could remember. I moved to Salt Lake when I was three years old in 1972 and it was an established fixture back then. I remember driving past it in my grandmother’s 1968 white Chevy Impala. It was across the street from Rexall Drug, where my grandma got all her prescriptions.

I don’t know when it closed. It might have been as early as September. I didn’t notice until October that they were gone. The commercial real estate sign went up and I thought that they must be mad to close up right before Halloween. I also felt ripped off because I didn’t get a chance to buy up all their costumes.

The sad truth of the matter is, I never set foot into the place. I’m the kind of girl who gets her costumes at Home Depot more often than a costume store. That doesn’t stop me from frequenting the Halloween stores that pop up in abandoned store fronts during October, but I have never set foot into any costume shop. The Costume Closet on 700 East and 4500 South is another place that I love dearly, but have never gone into.

I feel a strange sense of guilt. Me, who loves Halloween and dressing up more than almost anyone I know, never gave any of my money to The Salt Lake Costume Company and now they are out of business. It’s all my fault.

They are stripping the store right down to the 2X4s: exposed brick on the walls and debris on the showroom floor. I peeked into the windows and clicked pictures until Mike urged me away like a rubber-necker at a car accident.



  1. Their last day of business was Saturday October 1st.

    Comment by David — 11/4/2005 @ 6:07 pm

  2. There used to be a joke shop in Boston MA called “Jack’s Joke Shop.” It had a giant neon Alfred E. Newman face over the door. My father used to take me there. He’d hand me five bucks and head for the bar next door.

    I’d buy fake vomit, rubber dog poop, joy buzzers, stink bombs and hideous rubber masks.

    Jack’s and Dad are long gone. I guess I should have bought more stuff.

    Comment by Gene M — 11/11/2005 @ 3:22 pm

  3. I share your sadness Laura! I have lived in SLC all my life as well and that store is a memory. I now feel very lucky. I went into the store for my very first and only time last year (2004) on Halloween. It was FULL of people seeking disguise. I also share your appreciation of the holiday, and I am glad that I went in that day for a complete memory. I think that it’s abrubt disappearance leaves me feeling, well yeah, ripped off!

    Comment by katie christensen — 11/21/2005 @ 1:54 am

  4. Hey! Where’d you go?

                      The Passing of a long time friend.

    I. too, am disheartened by the demise of Salt Lake Costume. Though my major competor, it was the Major Icon of the Costume World, not only in our city, and across the USA. In business for nearly, or more than, 100 years. I knew the Allen’s just a little, I especially like the son Terry who owns Alinco Costumes, couldn’t be a nicer guy, as also his wife, and enjoyed meeting his father several times. When I began my business, The Costume Closet. over 33 years ago, I had occasion to seek the fathers advice a few times. Always found him gracious and generous. I really appreceated that. But I mourn the passing of this Hallmark, yea even a Landmark, of a major business in our city, our town, our personal place, which simply leaves a huge hole in the landscape of our hearts. Much like cutting down a huge pine tree that has shaded us, given us a place to carve our initials, given us leaves to play in and rake up, but our friend, who we have known all our lives and yet for various reasons must finally be brought down. Though the new scene is both exciting to watch and wonder what will fill that space, one can’t help but feel great emptyness. It is so sad, like putting one’s pet to sleep, as I did the other day, and now miss the clicking of her paws across the floors, the spot where she liked to lay, miss seeing the bright shiny eyes that that lay quietly, of late. just observing, waiting for us to “come in’ – waited for our attention, always ready to greet us. to serve us with her very being, to play, or be available to cuddle or pet, or whatever, but always there for us. Well, that’s how it is and was with SLCostume. Always there, ready to play with us, or whatever, and we all knew it, though most folks had no reason to venture inside, it didn’t matter. We knew it was always there for us. We knew it was full of fun stuff, full of the background stuff of our dreams and schemes. the possibilities, what ever we could imagine. It’s existance was a part of all of our lives, but we didn’t, we couldn’t, even consider the loss, until it was gone. We miss you Salt Lake Costume. Thank you being what you were and existing for us, for so many, many years. We bid you adieu. God Bless all those who were a part of it for so long. JoAnn W. Brown Owner of The Costume Closet

    Comment by JoAnn Brown — 10/6/2006 @ 2:09 am

  5. I last visited the SL Costume Company in September of 2005. At the time they said the building was being sold and they would have to relocate. I purchased some great stuff from their rental shop as they were thinning things out for the move. Hopefully we will see them pop up again somewhere in town. As for JoAnn, I have never visited your store. I now live in Colorado most of the year and only make occassional visits to Salt Lake. I would like to come in someday. By concidence I met your daughter some 20 years ago on a vacation in Mazatlan Mexico and have always wanted to visit your shop. Hopefully you will still be there when I finallly “get around to it”.

    Comment by Julie Reardon — 10/10/2006 @ 8:45 pm

  6. I worked at Salt Lake Costume in 1978-79 and had a wonderful time. The company had 50,000 costumes and could (and did) dress big shows all over the country. Joan Allen was the head seamstress along with an unflappable woman named Rose who could make any costume bigger or smaller, like Alice. We’d get an order for say, “The Music Man,” and I’d pull the costumes to match up the the charaters and the actors. Then a month later we’d get the costumes back and we’d clean and press them (we had our own laundry & dry cleaning equipment), only to get another order for “The Music Man.” I’d take a costume to Rose saying “The last Eulalie Shinn was 5’2 and 115 pounds; this Eulalie Shinn is 5’8 and 165 pounds. Can you alter this Grecian Urn outfit?” Bless her heart, she’d manage it somehow. We rented thousands of costumes locally for road shows and Halloween, which was so busy we worked 16 hour days for weeks. The Allen family would cook and bring food in so we could keep working; I still make the chocolate chip zuchini cake that they introduced me to. They had some original clothing from Mormon pioneers, though we didn’t rent those things out very often. There was a fire at the store well before I worked there that wiped out thousands of priceless costumes, and the family rebuilt the stock over the years. I’m sad to hear the store has closed. I wish the family the best.

    Comment by Marianne McKiernan — 1/16/2007 @ 10:14 pm

  7. I still have an emptyness in my heart for the S.L. Costume. I worked there for over 45 years. I started as a cleanup boy and was head of the Company after my Dad passed away. I retired early because of poor health. We sold the business shortly there after. Although the business never made us rich it did support 6 families.

    I wondered why our family wasn’t notified when the business was being auctioned off. I don’t think however we would have bought it back but it’s always on my mind.

    The business celebrated it’s 100th aniversary in 1989

    Comment by Carl Allen — 4/18/2007 @ 12:41 am

  8. My Father was manager for the longest time in the 90’s. I loved the big Halloween parties he had there, and all my costumes for the school plays were better then the home made ones. I am so sorry it is gone but the haunting did creep me out. Loved the old elevator that never worked right, but I think the ghosts were the main thing I will remember about the place.

    Comment by Kristen Saunders — 10/12/2007 @ 2:31 pm

  9. I was just looking up information for the SL Costume Company for my parents. They have cleaned and refurbished my father’s fake Santa beard for years and it is time to have it done once again. They moved from the area and have tried other place, but nobody comes close to the quality of work they did. I’m sad to see that they are gone.

    Comment by gomomgo — 2/24/2011 @ 9:15 pm

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