By Chris Mellides
Before Rubie’s Costume Co. became a multi-million-dollar costume industry juggernaut, with wholesale operations reaching 14 countries and employing more than 3,000 workers worldwide, the brand had much more humble beginnings.
The business got its start as Rubie's Candy Store in 1951 under Tillie and Rubin Beige. The couple ventured into marketing and selling novelties, and with Halloween becoming increasingly popular in American culture, the brand exploded with the addition of Halloween costumes to its inventory.
In 1972, Rubin died, and with his mother widowed, son Marc Beige took over the family business for what he thought was going to be only a short period of time.
“The idea was to run it for a year or so and then go back to teaching and I never did go back to teaching. Sometimes I wish I had, but it’s been a very interesting road to travel,” Beige said.
With a flagship retail location in Richmond, Queens, Beige has branched out, opening two additional Long Island stores in Westbury and Melville, both of which launched within the past year.
“It’s usually a good idea to have a retail store, because this way you get first-hand exposure from the customers, you get the feedback and comments as far as what they like, and more importantly, what they don’t like,” Beige said. “It allows us to design products that will be successful in the market, and we bring those products to our retail stores.”
At the Rubie’s Melville store, two contractors worked on a welding job on the roof of the building, readying the outside of the storefront for the Halloween rush.
The inside of the store is filled with costumes for infants, teens and adults. Colorful and creepy masks line the far wall by the store’s entranceway with life-size props of Star Wars characters, along with Marvel and DC Comics superheroes like, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Batman and the Joker.
Beside a true-to-scale replica of Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, four office co-workers laugh at the sight of some of the props, before continuing to wade through the large variety of superhero costumes littered around them.
One of them, Darlene Gladstone, 36, is a first-time shopper at Rubie’s. She and her colleagues are searching for costumes to wear at their office the Friday before Halloween.
“We went through a couple of options and sent out an email with a bunch of costume ideas,” Gladstone said. “At first we were going to go with mimes, but then we saw these superhero suits, and I think we’ve changed our minds.”
Asked about her impression of the store, Gladstone said, “It’s really cool. There’s a lot of stuff here and it seems perfect if you’re shopping for Halloween.”
While Halloween is a profitable time for Rubie’s, it’s the holidays observed outside the country that are a big boon to business, Beige said.
“It’s interesting that in Europe, depending on what country you’re talking about, the bigger holiday is usually Carnival and not Halloween,” Beige said. “That usually comes in February or March. Halloween is growing there, but still in most of those countries the bigger holiday would be the Carnival.”
Beige admits that he and his brother Howard were surprised at just how much their company has grown since they were kids in the ‘60s watching mom and dad at work in the tiny store that started it all.
Now the company’s future looks brighter still with Marc, Howard, and their sister, passing the torch on to their children.
“I think we’re going to continue growing in the wholesale and design end,” Beige said. “The retail stores have a very good place because it gives you direct knowledge from the consumer, and you understand what they want and why they want it. This is an important relationship and one that makes a company a success.”