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Greenwich Costume Shop Struggles This Halloween

GREENWICH, Conn. — Sophia Scarpelli, owner of the year-round vintage and costume shop Sophia's Costumes , is celebrating three decades of Halloweens in Greenwich. But she almost didn’t open this year. “It almost put me out of business. A guy backed his car right through the front of my store, driving right over where my beagles are usually tied up, and thank God nobody got killed,” she said.

The store reopened Sept. 15 to kick off its 30th year celebration. Scarpelli’s beagles, Louis and Lyla, were roaming through rows of costumes at her now-restored shop Thursday morning. Scarpelli showed off the high-quality fabric of a 1920s rental flapper dress with silver sequins that she reproduced from the design of a period gown.

“What makes me different? You can try the costumes on, it’s not a dump and you get service,” said Scarpelli, “If you tell me you want to be a devil, I will show you 20 different dresses you can buy, five or six that you can rent in all different price ranges. We’re going to take care of you. That’s the difference between me and the pop-up stores.”

In 2009, there were 1,719 costume and clothing rental establishments across the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau reported. As any Halloween shopper knows, it’s more difficult to find independent costume retailers such as Sophia’s Costumes.

“My store is really cool. I’m not a pop-up store that’s there for one month,” said Scarpelli. “There’s no little people left, and I don’t know how long I’m going to be here honestly. I’ve lived her all my life, and I started this store when I was 21 years old.”

A 2007 Gallup Panel survey found that Americans spent an average of $52 on Halloween merchandise, “spread about equally among costumes, decorations and candy.” The total household expenditure jumped to $82 for households with children under age 18, “with a bit more emphasis on costumes.”

But with the scarier-than-a-Halloween-slasher-flick prospect of a double-dip global recession haunting the homes and wallets of millions of Americans this October, Scarpelli said, “It’s been really hard this year, the worst year ever, but I truly believe in karma and I believe something good will come to me.”

Sophia’s Costumes is located at 1 Liberty Way in Greenwich and is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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