A Klingon greeted me when I first entered Gotcha.
It was the fall of 1996, and I was there to find components to go as Magenta from Rocky Horror Picture Show. In a barking tone that I’m told is characteristic of Klingons, the Klingon inquired as to what I wanted and within four minutes, I had everything from the maid’s outfit to the false eyelashes.
That was the first Halloween that Aaro Froese (the aforementioned Klingon) owned Gotcha, after getting his start renting costumes at The Nostalgia Shop. He’s been outfitting Columbians with costumes, make up, magic supplies and goofy stuff ever since.
Being that it’s the Season of the Witch, I interviewed Aaro on a busy evening during his 20th yeae of costuming Columbians for Halloween. Read on for the Q and A, and a piece of advice: if you still need a costume, consider the carrot.
“The carrot’s my favorite costume,” Aaro says, standing before a wall of wigs. “Everybody who goes out as the carrot tells me the most fantastic tales of Halloween.”
But before we get to the Q and A, the first costume I remember wearing was the year I went as a piece of cheese. My mother made it from a box that was painted yellow, probably the year that I turned three (Halloween happens to be my birthday. Yes, I realize this is awesome). Be sure to tell me in the comments section the earliest costume you remember.
Find Gotcha in Columbia at 27 N. 10th St., between Broadway and Walnut. Aaro Froese (pronounced Arrow Frays) co-owns the store with his wife, Dr. Michelle Froese.
Here we go….
How did you get started in the costume business?
Well, after I got out of the institution, it seemed like the right thing to do. No, actually it was the institution of college. In college, I worked for The Nostalgia Shop, and the shop at the time was selling cigars, fine wines, and renting costumes in October. So every October I’d show up and put together their costume shop.
So what’s the first costume that you remember?
For me costumes don’t always equate to Halloween. My dad’s an artist, he was trained by Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock and, when I was a young kid, he used to do a bunch of weird stuff, like real creepy gore stuff. He was approached to do makeup for a movie and I can remember my arm being used to make molds. One of the first things I can remember is a cast of my head and face with plaster of paris to get a face mold.
For one Halloween costume I remember, we created our own mummy using masking tape and corn starch. It looked pretty good except that I left a corn starch trail every where I went.
How have costumes in Columbia changed over the years?
I was lamenting the other day, I don’t do as many Charlie Chaplins or Abbot and Costellos as I used to. The guys I was working with at The Nostalgia Shop, I used to rent out their old clothes for hippie clothing, the fringed vests. Now, my acid washed jeans are getting rented out for 80s clothing.
Five, six years ago, Austin Powers was so, so hot. The clients today who are coming in who are 18 to 20, were 13 or 14 then, so their moms didn’t let them watch Austin Powers. They come in and they’re like, “Who’s that blue suit for?”
There are also costumes that get revisited. When I first started, everyone was into Where’s Waldo. Then, for like eight years, nobody did it. Now, people want to do Where’s Waldo. At first, it was the adults who would do Where’s Waldo, but now there are all these eight-year-olds who are now 18 years old who come in and want to do a Where’s Waldo costume.
What are the big costumes this year?
Alice in Wonderland. Pocahontas. Flappers and gangsters, and vampires.
What do you do in November?
Clean up. It takes about two, three full weeks to get all the laundry back and hung up, and also during that time, we really revamp the shop. We bring down some of the fuzzy people. We get ready for the Santa Clauses, the pilgrims, the baby New Years. Then we change out all the cases up here so they aren’t so costume heavy but more magic and novelty heavy for Christmas sales.
So you say you don’t equate costumes with Halloween, necessarily. What are some of the things people could do with costumes that aren’t Halloween?
A lot of people will do masquerades. We do a lot of historic costumes, and at schools, kids do reports about historic characters. We costume for a lot of theaters and plays. There are a lot of folks that do Youtubes or film movies, so they’ll need a costume here or there.
What do you usually do for Halloween?