Years before revitalization of West Main Street in Peoria became a thing, The Costume Trunk was doing its part.
Since 1981, the West Bluff business located at 710 W. Main St. has been providing costumes for Halloween, special occasions and sports-team mascots. The Costume Trunk also sells theatrical makeup and wigs.
It also provided an early exposure to the business world for Ryan Spain, who represents the 73rd District in the Illinois House of Representatives. Before that, Spain was a Peoria City Councilman. His father, Steve, owns the business, but for how much longer is another question.
Recently, the elder Spain was gracious enough to answer Nick in the Morning’s queries about his business, its history, his famous son and his pre-retirement mind-set. You might say Spain was unmasked.
How did you get into the costume business?
I graduated from Illinois State University in 1974 with a sociology degree and a theatre minor. My first business was on the second floor of the Rialto Theater building in Downtown Peoria. It was a small magic shop that I opened with my friend Kevin Carter. When the Rialto was torn down to make room for the Civic Center, we moved to 1218 W Main St. in the Varsity Theater building, where Campustown is now. It was at that time that we started to carry a few costumes along with magic and novelties. Halloween parties for adults had just started to become popular. I’ve been at our present location for almost 36 years.
What was the first costume you sold?
Honestly, I don’t remember. Early on, the costumes were pretty basic — clowns, capes, monks, witches, etc.
How has the costume business evolved over the years? Is it basically the same as you started? If not, why not?
Back in the 1980s and ’90s, Halloween was everything. A good portion of our business was done in the month of October. Today, Halloween is still important, but not like it was. Today, we’re doing things year round with schools, churches, parades, special events, etc. Of course, like all businesses, we have more competition these days with internet sales and temporary stores. Today, most of our business comes from other businesses or organizations where a quality product is more important. We are the only true costume shop in the area and draw from about a 100-mile radius.
We assume Halloween is the busiest time of year for you. What are other ones?
In addition to Halloween, the Christmas and holiday season keep us bus,y with Santas, elves, Madrigal costumes, church dramas, Dickens-type period costumes. Spring is important, with Easter bunnies, church dramas, school musicals, Mardi Gras, etc. Outdoor festivals in the summer are popular in this area.
What is your most popular costume?
It’s really hard to say. Of course, it depends on the season. Cartoon-character costumes are popular all year.
Your business has been on West Main Street a long time. How has that strip changed over the years? And how…