, Derry, New Hampshire

October 31, 2013

Downtown shop a year-round costume treat

Costumes aren't just for Halloween

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — It was a last-minute effort to find that perfect Halloween touch.

“Do you have any cat tails?” the woman asked during a visit to the Costume Gallery on Saturday.

The downtown costume business has been outfitting the area for more than 25 years.

The shop was hopping Saturday, with people stopping by to find that perfect wig or accessory to complete this year’s costume.

But it’s not the last-minute Halloween shoppers that make up most of the business.

Gallery owner Claire Renaud said her busiest time is yet to come.

“June to January is my busiest time,” Renaud said.

That’s the time of year when all the schools and community theater groups stage their productions, something Renaud is heavily involved with, building costume collections and creating original designs. She ships costumes all over the world.

Her business relies heavily on rentals. Right now, she has more than 20,000 costumes in her collection. Many are stored at her tiny business at 11 East Broadway. Others are stored away in another downtown space.

Rentals are available for almost any occasion from Halloween through the holidays. Renaud has even made custom-designed wedding dresses for that perfect medieval event.

Growing up in a big family, Renaud said she always loved dressing up and creating her own costumes.

She learned to sew at a young age and was encouraged to be creative, often making her outfits from things around the house.

The passion to share her talents as a business began in her Derry home before she moved to the Broadway location in 1995.

This year’s choices for top Halloween wear include period clothing for a Great Gatsby look, or something to keep up with the top sports teams.

“We’re selling a ton of Red Sox beards,” Renaud said.

People tend to be very original when they plan their costumes, Renaud said, and this year has a little bit of everything.

David Gardner was shopping last weekend at the costume shop, not sure of what he wanted to be this year.

“I was thinking about being Uncle Sam,” Gardner said. “And I’m always last minute.”

Marion Bishop has worked with Renaud since 1987. The British-born woman said she enjoys the costume world this time of year.

“In the U.K., Halloween is not as big as it is here,” Bishop said.

Renaud said her shop will be changing a bit as she gradually weans off the packaged Halloween costumes that fill the center of her space.

She will still offer the wide variety of rental costumes, accessories, wigs and other accents to create the perfect look along with her custom-made offerings for any performance or event.

Children in area schools will still find that perfect wig or pair of glasses for a character project in the classroom and adults singing with a local madrigal group will find what they need to complete their authentic look.

“We are just going to go back to our original roots,” Renaud said.