By Gregg Found
Carrboro Commons Writer
Halloween costume devotee and master designer Barry Keith – better known as Sid, owner of Surplus Sid’s costume store – said he only goes as one thing every Halloween.
“People ask me, ‘Sid, what are you going to be for Halloween?’” Keith said, chuckling at how often he gets the question, “And I go, ‘Exhausted, thank you very much.’”
Keith is facing the crunch now more than any time of year as students, children and adventurous adults cram into his store in search of a Halloween costume before the enormous Oct. 31 celebration.
Though the rush on Surplus Sid’s inventory comes on like a tidal wave every year, it’s nothing new to Keith, who opened the store in 1988.
“What I have learned over 20 years is that Halloween has become the one totally self-indulgent holiday,” Keith said before showing off his Predator slime skeleton costume. “You can be Jack Sparrow for the day, or you can be the guy out on Street Fighter.”
He’s used to the influx of customers, but some early birds alleviate his October burden. They start costume shopping as early as July, Keith said, or just improve on what they used the year before.
“They’ll come in 2006 and then come back and say, ‘I’m going to add this to it in 2007, and then in 2008 I’m going to build upon it,’” he said.
Still, he counts on a costume rush every year and makes sure to beef up for it.
Keith hires off-duty police officers for the busiest days in October to work the front door both in order to prevent theft and to regulate the flow of people so that he doesn’t violate fire code regulations.
He also keeps his store open on the day of Halloween – often much later than planned.
“Human nature, we’re all about procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate, wait ‘til the last minute,” he said. “Some people, especially college students, come in on Halloween and say, ‘Well, man, I wasn’t going to be anything at all, but now I gotta find something,’” Keith said.
The store normally closes at 6 p.m., but Keith said that on Oct. 31, there’s always after-hour demand.
“It takes us a good two hours to close,” he said as he wheeled out an all-black grim reaper costume to display on the sidewalk in front of the store. “I’ve got them beating on the door going, ‘Just one thing, please.’”
And he makes sure to be flexible in what he sells and how he sells it. Renting costumes at Sid’s Surplus is almost as popular as buying them, he estimated. Moreover, not everyone who comes to the store is looking for an outfit from head to toe.
“What we are famous for is if someone has an idea for a concept, and they just need one piece or two pieces while they’re trying to put the concept together, we’re imaginative enough around here to come up with the pieces they want, so that they finish their costume,” he said.
He recalled a girlfriend that wanted her boyfriend to dress up as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il while she went as a nuclear missile. Keith outfitted the boyfriend with a press-on light and wrote the word “detonate” in Korean on top to serve as his launch button.
He helped the girl find a cone head for the tip of her missile and a children’s play tunnel for the body.
While he spends hours figuring out accessories and colors for his customers’ costumes, Keith usually doesn’t indulge himself.
Keith, a 1978 UNC-CH graduate, said that although he used to head to Franklin Street on Halloween night, he has a new routine. He takes his 5-year-old daughter around and watches the festivities online via a Franklin Street webcam.
In order to keep up with the demands of his customers, Keith tries to follow the news and pop culture. If someone wants a Lara Croft Tomb Raider costume, he said, he has to know who Lara Croft is.
Sometimes that’s not too easy.
“I try to stay up,” he said, then pauses for a second. “But I’m hopelessly unhip.”