For nearly a quarter century, Central Coast residents in need of a funky costume knew exactly where to go.
But seismic retrofitting put a damper on the area’s largest costume shop, as Costume Capers was forced to leave its downtown home on Chorro Street after 23 years and quickly relocate.
Owner Debi Hernandez knew the retrofitting would force Costume Capers to move, but the abruptness of it took her by surprise.
“I felt it was a little unnecessary and kind of unreasonable,” Hernandez said of the moving process, which took them to 2146 Parker Street on the edge of downtown.
The shop was given notice in February that it had just 60 days to find a new place and be completely out of its old building.
“Sixty days was the bare minimum that they legally had to give us,” Hernandez said. “It took us nearly the entire 60 days to find a new place to lease.”
The search for a new building was a lengthy process for the shop, which Hernandez said did not fit the mold of many buildings available at the time.
“I don’t think we’re a shopping center sort of business,” Hernandez added.
The potential impact of retrofitting on the face of the downtown shopping area is yet to be seen, but Hernandez sees a grim future for many of the small, locally-owned shops.
“A lot of the little small mom-and-pop type stores like ours are having to either go out of business or move out of downtown,” she said. “If you’re in a place where you don’t get a lot of walk-in traffic, it’s hard to keep things going.”
Costume Capers may not suffer as much as other closing downtown businesses because they have carved out a special niche of the market and are the only shop in the area offering their costume rental and retail services, Hernandez said.
While the new building has limited floor space, Hernandez sees many aspects of the building that will be an upgrade to the old location by the time the shop is completely organized.
“The vertical space is really nice and makes it feel larger,” she said. “We have a dry cleaner type conveyer that will allow us use a lot of the vertical space. It’s also an easy building to find, and we have our own parking. It’s a lot better parking situation than we’ve ever had in the past.”
While a costume shop seems like it would be more of a seasonal success than a year-round profitable business, Costume Caper employee Sharon Doran explained that it is a vital part of the theatre community.
“The San Luis Obispo Little Theatre is doing a production of ‘Ray,’” Doran said. “The production spans from the ’50s to the ’70s. We’ve provided all the costumes for that. So that’s anything from a shark skin suit to a leather ’70s jacket and go-go boots. They rely heavily on us for that kind of stuff.”
Doran said she enjoys working for the shop and suggested anyone with an eye for old fashion trends would enjoy coming in.
“It’s really an eclectic collection of inventory,” Doran said. “It’s basically a fashion museum. There are garments here that are over 50 years old. It’s really cool if you like fashion.”