PINELLAS PARK – Growing up, Rick Paul always had a love of magic. And as an adult, he even performed regularly at local events – mostly birthday parties and other gatherings.
Then 31 years ago, he decided to try his hands at running a magic shop. He bought some tricks and jokes in bulk and sold them at the Wagon Wheel Flea Market in Pinellas Park.
He and his wife, Sarah Paul, who runs Theatrical Fantasy Costumes, Inc. with him, have moved around quite a bit since then. They opened their first permanent shop in St. Pete Beach, where they expanded their offerings to balloons, costume rentals and even Florida souvenirs,
“We started with one little rack of just rentals, and it just grew more and more,” Sarah said.
Their balloon customers included large clients, including the Home Shopping Network and Tech Data.
Costume rentals gave way to costume retail sales, Sarah said.
“I handled all the maintenance myself. I washed them and sewed them,” she said. “It just got to be too much.”
The shop bounced around locations a bit, Rick said, from several spots in St. Petersburg as well as temporary Halloween shops that opened during the fall.
Nine years ago, the couple decided they wanted a permanent home for their shop and moved to Pinellas Park, where they purchased a building at 5257 Park Blvd. N.
“We’re lucky,” Rick said. “It’s been a great little niche for us. We’ve done well and it’s allowed us to buy this building, buy our house.”
Halloween is the busiest time of year for the store.
“It’s like Christmas for Walmart of Kmart,” Rick said.
But the shop remains busy until it closes after Memorial Day for the summer. First there is Christmas, he said. In addition to people looking for costumes for the holiday, Theatrical Fantasy Costumes also provides all of the beads that are handed out by the floats in the Pinellas Park Christmas Parade. There’s also Gasparilla and Mardi Gras, which are both busy times of year at the shop, Sarah added.
The store also enjoys relationships with many creative organizations and performers in the area – from small theaters and school plays to burlesque performers – as well. They come in at all times of the year, Rick said.
“It’s exciting,” Sarah said. “It’s fun dressing people up. “It’s neat because everybody comes in and wants something different. They show you a picture on their phone and say, ‘Can you make me look like this?’ Then we come up with ideas and piece it together with things out of the store.”
And in case you’re wondering, the store still sells the magic tricks and jokes it was founded on.
“We’ll never stop selling those,” Rick said.
For more information, visit www.fantasycostumesflorida.com.