For one night be someone else. Our reporter visits Fantasy Costumes in Portage Park.
You can’t miss this 1/2 block long costume store that houses over one million items and thousands of costumes ranging in sizes form X-Small to 5X-Large. Fantasy costumes located 4065 N. Milwaukee Ave. (between Cuyler Ave & Belle Plaine Aveon) is packed with products and with Halloween around the corner the store preps for it’s busiest time of the year.
The store is a Chicago landmark and a popular spot in the Portage Park neighborhood.
George Garcia is the owner and revealed that superheroes, cat woman and, surprisingly, pirates are making a comeback this year.
After a life in the air force, Garcia started out in the wig business. This soon became successful to the point where his business was creating custom wigs for Diana Ross and Dolly Parton.
“A lot of movies that film in Chicago come here for their movies,” Garcia said. He named a few which include Barber Shop, Soul Food, and Home Alone. Fantasy Costumes has also made custom wigs for commercials including a campaign for Dove.
Soon the business intermingled with costumes and for the past 43 years it has expanded to what it is known for today. The store adds at a minimum of a thousand items to its inventory every year. Garcia said it’s all done without computers, using traditional book keeping styles to keep track of their items.
The most expensive costume is a fully equipped Batman suit which is retailed at $900 and a storm trooper from the Star Wars franchise that goes for the same price (and it can also be rented).
Employee Ray Roman says that when it comes to pricy costumes like this many rent but every once in a while someone will buy.
Garcia said he takes pride in his employees. “We have knowledge here,” he said. His staff includes a make-up artist and theater experts. “We have one of the best crews working this year; everybody is so helpful and we speak about 6-7 languages.”
The store is split into sections which include mascots and parade costumes, wigs, theatrical props, masks, children’s costumes, hats, makeup, Mardi Gras, and specialty items.
Garcia showed ChicagoTalks sections of the store that are not shown to costumers and that is where they keep their inventory. Rooms filled with ball gowns, wigs, and thousands of wrapped costumes are pilled up high. Right next to the store is a warehouse with over 20,000 square feet stacked with inventory.
The store is prepping for its 24-hour opening. From Oct. 24 to Oct. 31 the store will not close and owner Garcia said the line doesn’t stop. In previous years the demand was high enough that they decided to do it and has proven to be successful. Locals consider it a tradition.