What to wear has been a question people have asked pretty much since the dawn of time.

And Halloween is when there’s the urge to find a costume that will scare, delight or impress.

“I've had a lot of couples come in so far as spouses, and actually they've been looking for coordinating costumes. And I have a ton of that kind of stuff,” Tanya Bloomquist said Tuesday, Oct. 26.

The former front-end manager for Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity opened up a Halloween costume pop-up store Friday at Washington Street and East River Road in Brainerd.

“This is just something that I wanted to do to help my friend — he had all these costumes — and so I just kind of wanted to help him out by trying to sell some for him and just bring a pop-up store to Brainerd because everybody needs a costume,” Bloomquist said.

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Dressed to kill

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 843 formal wear and costume rental establishments in the United States in 2019, which was the year before the coronavirus pandemic scuttled many plans and activities, and social distancing was encouraged.

“We are hearing, you know, that some people are sticking pretty close to home. And we're hearing others simply aren’t, so, you know, we're there for either,” said Kelli Mankowski, co-owner of Party World in Baxter.

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“How much to order is completely a guess because nobody's ever had to deal with a pandemic before,” Mankowski said of her suppliers. “In addition to that, we have to place our orders so early in the year — we have to place our orders in the spring — and hope that you guess right.”

Mankowski also faced troublesome supply chain disruptions, with many of the items that she carries at Party World coming from China, where the products are made.

“Our costume supplies normally come in in July. We have not seen them yet. But that being said, we were able to buy out a couple of other companies, other small business owners, that had costumes,” Mankowski said Tuesday.

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Pop-up stores

Bloomquist temporarily leased space from Legend Outdoors, a builder of aluminum fish houses and travel trailers, to sell Halloween costumes. She carries costumes for adults — not children.

“It’s just kind of fun for the couple to go in there and say, ‘Oh, this would really match up with this one!’ And it's been really fun to help the couples, especially if they have an idea in mind and they have an event they're looking forward to going to … to coordinate it,” Bloomquist said.


“I used to always dress up with my children when they were younger.”

— Tanya Bloomquist


Last year, the top searches locally for Halloween costumes, based on Googles’ Frightgeist list, were, from fifth to first: “Thor,” “Starbucks,” “Superhero,” “Hulk Hogan” and “Loki.” This year, the top searches locally for Halloween costumes, based on the Frightgeist list were, from fifth to first: “steampunk,” “mascot,” “devil,” “Purge” and “Pulp Fiction.”

“A lot of times it's all about the movies, you know? They decide what's going to be the most popular costume,” Mankowski said of costume trends. But, of course, with all of the movies slowing down and not coming out and whatever, we really aren't seeing many trends like that.”

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Bloomquist said she has almost 400 costumes available for purchase and was slowly spreading the word of the pop-up store in Brainerd through Facebook and B-bay, a radio-based offerer of discounts from local businesses for products and services.

“It hasn't been busy,” said Bloomquist, who sells the costumes on weekends or by appointment. “I did have some people come in, but I just really need to get the word of mouth out … so I would love to have some last-minute shoppers — definitely — and just come at your leisure.”

Party World on Edgewood Drive carries a wide variety of costumes year-round for men and women and not just for Halloween but for other occasions such as Easter or Christmas.

“The traffic seems to be pretty much the same as last year — maybe even a little bit busier,” Mankowski said of Halloween shoppers.

Shop early, shop often

Mankowski said some of her shoppers are not looking for costumes but accessories and makeup to come up with a look, especially because of the disruption caused by the pandemic.

“We do have a good selection again, but, you know, some of the stuff that we don't have simply because it’s sitting on a container ship somewhere,” Mankowski said of supply chain problems and overseas costume suppliers.

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Bloomquist said every couple that's come in has their own idea in mind because everybody wants to be so different.

Some of the ideas, however, are for costumes she doesn’t carry.

“I have had a couple of people ask for Harry Potter. But again, that would be more of a younger crowd, and I don't have, like, necessarily characters. ... I don't have Harry Potter. I have, like, witches, I have angels, I have police officers. I have, you know, themed ones,” Bloomquist said.

Mankowski said of Party World, “We are doing a clearance sale on a lot of our rental costumes — we're not seeing the rental costumes go out as much, especially during the pandemic … so that’s helping our inventory as well.”

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Not just for kids

Bloomquist carries Halloween costumes that some may consider “risque” or “mature” in nature, too, for adults looking to spice things up.

“These are going to be for private parties. These are not going to be going from door to door with your kids, more than likely. You're not going to be warm in these costumes, especially the women,” Bloomquist said, chuckling loudly.

A modest sign outside the building of Legend Outdoors at Washington Street and East River Road in Brainerd alerts passing motorists of the pop-up Halloween costume store inside operated by Tanya Bloomquist.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
A modest sign outside the building of Legend Outdoors at Washington Street and East River Road in Brainerd alerts passing motorists of the pop-up Halloween costume store inside operated by Tanya Bloomquist. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

Mankowski said of her clearance costumes, “We have gorillas ... we have gangsters and flappers. We've got a variety of animals like monkeys and pigs … and disco dancing dolls, and nurses and doctors and pirates.”

Bloomquist said she plans on selling Halloween costumes next year for the entire month of October instead of just the weekends like she is doing this year.

“I used to always dress up with my children when they were younger,” Bloomquist said of Halloween. “And it's probably one of my — besides Christmas — is probably my favorite holiday.”

Top costume ideas

Based on Googles’ Frightgeist list for 2021 of top searches for Halloween costumes.

Top searches locally

  1. Pulp Fiction

  2. Purge

  3. Devil

  4. Mascot

  5. Steampunk

Top searches nationally

  1. Witch

  2. Rabbit

  3. Dinosaur

  4. Spider-Man

  5. Cruella de Vil

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL.