*Maude Vintage is a vintage store. A previous version of this article misidentified the business. The store also purchases all of the items in its inventory. The article misstated how the store acquired costumes from schools and theater groups.
COLUMBIA — Weaving among the racks of vintage clothing on the main floor of Maude Vintage, shoppers are led to an open door. Except for the month of October, passage through that door requires an escort.
The doorway leads to a flight of stairs framed by clothing selected to spark costume ideas for Halloween shoppers. Turn the corner, and you're in the middle of a basement full of costumes.
There are 1920s flapper attire, gangster coats and hats, Elizabethan dress and gear popularized by movie characters — Robin Hood, Peter Pan, clones from "Star Wars."
The costume rental aspect of Maude Vintage was a part of Crazy I's Thrift Shop before owner Sabrina Garcia-Rubio came along.
When she moved to Columbia at 20, Garcia-Rubio had the opportunity to manage Crazy I's Thrift Shop for six months. Owner Illene Vanabbema took notice of Garcia-Rubio's business skills, despite her lack of formal training. Vanabbema had been running the store for eight years and decided it was time to sell the business. She gave Garcia-Rubio first dibs on the store.
"I felt like I had started a project with her store," she said. "I started making everything really organized and clean; a real buying system. It was a project that I didn't want to stop."
Garcia-Rubio purchased the store in 2000.
In November, Maude's basement-housed costume collection will turn 21. Most of the costumes come from theater clean-out sales, but now that the store is well established, Garcia-Rubio gets phone calls from theater groups, schools and small colleges with costumes. *All of the items in the store's collection are purchased by Garcia-Rubio. Every other year she weeds out the costumes that are stained or damaged.
Leading up to Halloween, Garcia-Rubio said foot traffic picks up and the store feels like a "party," with groups of people bantering and talking.
"It's kind of cool to hear people getting to know each other, commenting on each other's costume or being like, 'I really like that,'" Garcia-Rubio said. "It's elbow to elbow, and everyone is looking to dress up because they intend to go out and do something fun."
Garcia-Rubio tries to imagine the costume room from the point of view of a customer who has never been inside of a costume room like Maude's. She imagines that it can potentially be a little overwhelming to find a certain look or get ideas.
She trains her staff to be full service and build a relationship with customers for the costume rental aspect of the store.
"We want to get to know the person and what they are looking for; we do a complete head-to-toe look with them, she said. "We're pretty full service and I think that's why we get so many return customers who come back to us year after year."
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