As Nancy Cox works in her Garden City store, black bats and an evil-eyed witch with claws for hands hang from the ceiling.
Nearby, past the battle axes, fake blood and daggers, are aisle after aisle of costumes — pirate outfits, flouncy dresses for would-be Southern belles, orange-and-black striped tiger costumes and, made from gleaming, white plastic, one of Star Trek’s stern Storm Troopers.
The store is Acme Costume, said to be the largest costume emporium in the Southeastern United States.
Cox counts “thousands and thousands” of outfits, most of them created by her, and all kept in her 10,500-square foot store or a 5,000-square foot warehouse out back.
Acme supplies costumes year-round for birthday parties and conventions, Cox said. But Halloween is her busiest season. As the witching hour nears, she’s hired 20 part time employees to rent or sell elaborate costumes, wigs, shoes and often-gory makeup from morning until 10 at night.
One recent weekday, Krista Harberson, a SCAD faculty member, comes to ACME to buy light green, diaphanous wings for a college ball.
“I’m going to be the Green Fairy that lives in an absinthe bottle,” she explains.
Also shopping is Statesboro mom Cindy Sheppard, whose 15-year-old daughter plans to dress up as the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz at an upcoming horse show. Smiling, Sheppard shows off her daughter’s suit of silver.
And Savannah resident Ron Cole looks for the perfect Beatles outfit to wear at an upcoming Sergeant Pepper party. He hopes to find that at Acme, Cole says, adding, “I love it here.”
In business since 1992, Cox got her start after years of sewing costumes for her three children.
These days, the 47-year-old Cox says she can sew several outfits in a single day. She’s made tons of dresses for Southern belles, created a goddess outfit, decorated countless hats and made an eerie-looking mask from coyote skin and feathers.
Right now, her pirate costumes are her most popular product, Cox relates as she walks the length of an area she calls her “pirate aisle.”
The long aisle is full of fancy, white shirts, black vests, black pants, black sashes and wide-brimmed, black hats trimmed with feathers.
And that isn’t all. In another section of the store, Cox offers pirate accessories — bright swords, for instance, plus a useful item for anyone portraying Capt. Hook, a gleaming, golden hook complete with fabric to cover your hand.
Recent movies have made this pirate garb fashionable, Cox notes. Also, there’s historic interest in pirates such as Blackbeard who marauded in this region, she says.
Besides, Cox says matter-of-factly, “Savannah is a pirate town.”
But Savannah is also a town that comes to Acme to rent fairy princess and werewolf outfits; Elvis Presley-style jumpsuits and silly costumes that can turn adults into giant rabbits.
For all her interest in costumes, Cox confesses that she rarely wears one.
“I’m like Cinderella,” she says. “I’m too busy making costumes so everyone else can enjoy them.”