Consolidation, innovation help The Costumer serve consumers way beyond Halloween – The Daily Gazette

SCHENECTADY – If you’re looking for a princess dress, an inflatable guitar, that favorite dinosaur costume your 8-year-old would love, or a Harry Potter sort of hat, look no further. The Customer probably has.

“We have over 100,000 costumes for rent and tens of thousands of costumes for Halloween, masks or Christmas at our store in Mohawk Harbor,” said owner Eric Johnsen.

The customer also has an e-commerce store or online shopping center across the street from a rental location on Barrett Street in Schenectady.

These three locations are a way to consolidate the business that Johnsen and his wife Bonnie acquired in 2016.

Their origins, however, could not have suggested that they would ever become shop owners, let alone that they would own one related to the theater. They grew up separately in the District of Columbia, but met at the University of Albany.

After moving to New York, Eric took up banking with a focus on operations and technology; Bonnie did marketing research for the magazine and later was an assistant special education teacher.

But after a 27-year international banking career and as the parents of two sons, the Johnsins decided to return home.

More Outlook 2022 – Focus on businesses in the Schenectady area

Although neither had jobs being built, Eric said he felt his skills were “very portable” because his experience was so heavily focused on logistics and products.

They drew attention to the costumes when they saw how acting in high school changed their youngest son.

“Like parents on stage, a son who was heavily involved in theater, and seeing this shy and closed-minded young man and how it turned him with confidence and gave him a way out … this main vision echoed in us,” Eric said.
Bonnie agreed.

“We have always been passionate about young people finding their way,” she said. “Parents are so pleased to see this, and now be on the other side to convey this message.”

The business they bought is old.

Anna White was a famous seamstress in the city in 1917, who used her skills as a way to share her daughter’s dance lessons. And Schenectady was a stop on the vaudeville chain, Eric said. As the story goes, Lillian Gish, a famous actress and silent film star, was in town on a production, probably in Proctors, when she had a “fault” in one of her costumes. White was summoned.

“She saved the situation,” Eric said.

White saw an opportunity and started a business to provide costumes as well as making them for trade and later for those who wanted to dress up. Its reputation for unmatched customer service has grown.

In 1974, Jack and Katie Sheehan bought the business and expanded their offerings to produce scholastic theaters. At the time, there was only a store on Barrett Street where customers could buy or rent costumes or adapt to build a costume. In 2008, a supermarket was opened in Colonie to expand the store’s offerings.

However, after the Johnsons bought the business, they saw that the lease of the Colonie store was due to be formalized in October 2021.

“It has become a catalyst for us to find a place elsewhere,” Eric said. “And we’ve always been strategically looking for another place to be in Schenectady and have surgery under one roof or next to each other.”

As the development of Mohawk Harbor is in full swing, Johnsens turned to the Schenectady Metroplex Development Office, which “helped us identify what might help achieve our goals”. Last summer they moved all the goods from the former Colonie store to a new location that has 7,500 square feet. The store opened on August 1st.
The Barrett Street location is now only for rent and a place where customers can accommodate.

Because much emphasis is placed on scholastic theatrical offerings, the Johnsons have carefully researched what they offer.

More Outlook 2022 – Focus on businesses in the Schenectady area

“We are watching the licensing of the opening of new shows,” he said. “This is a continuous process. We are constantly evaluating. We don’t want to go as gangsters to a show that doesn’t work. “

For example, they made sure there were costumes available for “Beauty and the Beast”, “Something Rotten”, “Frozen”, “Hair” and anything from “Harry Potter”, “Batman” or many classics. They can give different costumes to characters even in very small or very large sizes and combine face masks to costumes.

“We want to provide Broadway-quality costumes at affordable prices,” Bonnie said. “We work nationally and with a lot of high schools, and we want to raise production. We also ship to post videos; we learned to work with the green screen. We may refuse delivery to keep the show going. We are here to listen to our customers. ”

Sometimes they slightly misjudged the popularity of the show – for example, “Sister Act”, which caused only a mild response – so they try to redesign the costumes of nuns.

While the store has become a beacon for the school theater, it still maintains long-standing relationships with national directors and has decades of delivering shows and customers who come to the store “year after year,” Eric said.

The costume designer has up to 14 people in the theatrical part of the store, including those who wash costumes for long runs, and three who design, design, modify, print and pack new costumes. A total of 30 people work here.

New to the store, however, are its dance offerings: shoes for jazz, steppe and ballroom dancers; ballet slippers; leotard; tights; and these cute skirts worn by ballerinas are usually at rehearsals.

“We’re working with 20 local dance schools, and their numbers continue to grow,” Bonnie Johnsen said.

The pandemic has had some impact on business, although last Halloween was a “big success,” Eric said.

The new store is in a world-class location and is more of an “entertainment store”. We feel that the location of the casino and hotel is a perfect match for what we do. We even sponsor a family ride on Wednesday night [at a nearby rink]where kids can dress up and staff can dress up in different costumes or characters, ”Eric said.

Bonnie added that they are also looking for more ways the store can “weave itself into the community. Our secret sauce is customer service. We are here to deliver for them. ”

Dance competitions can only be one of the events they once sponsored.

The customer
-Eric and Bonnie Johnsen are the third owners of this 105-year-old business.
-Three places: Mohawk Harbor (retail); two on Barrett Street (rent, e-commerce)
-More than 100,000 costumes and related articles for entertainment, school performances, dancing and more

More Outlook 2022 – Focus on businesses in the Schenectady area

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Categories: Business, Life & Art, Outlook 2022, Schenectady

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