“You just have no idea how busy I am,” says Marilynn Wick. “It’s friggin’ insane.”
It’s a Monday afternoon in July in South Florida. Typically, it doesn’t get more off-season than that. But Wick, the superwoman of the South Florida theatre and costume industries, is putting out one fire after another.
In her second-floor office at Costume World, the costume-rental and storefront she’s run for more than 40 years, underlings come and go, each with an urgent question only Wick can answer. She receives a phone call informing her that a valued employee is resigning; Wick lets out an exasperated four-letter word. Then her daughter calls, and Wick makes a convincing effort to sound un-stressed when she takes it. An issue involving Actors Equity contracts arises next, and by the time I leave the office after an hour-long visit, there’s a queue to speak with her.
And then there’s the half-filled moving boxes on the floor of the office. This marks Costume World’s final week in its Deerfield Beach building, where she’s spent 27 years of the business’ lifespan. A new landlord for the plaza, which Costume World has shared with a Dollar Tree and a pub, doubled Wick’s rent. She says he deliberately wanted to push her business out: He aims to reinvent the complex as a high-end shopping destination, with a Sprouts organic supermarket to move into the space.
Downstairs, the normally tidy showroom overflows with merchandise—rack after rack of clothing organized by category (Renaissance, 1930s, Asian & Arabic) offered at deep discount. Boxes of all manner of $5 hats sit on the center of the floor next to a rack of Santa suits. The liquidation sale runs through Sunday.
“I can’t go down there,” Wick says. “It’s too depressing. We’ve been here for so long; it’s like a little institution here. People run in at the last minute—‘my kid’s got to be in this thing’—and we’ve bonded with these people over the years. People come in here and just say, where are we gonna go now?”
The answer is still Costume World, albeit in a new location with a different vibe. On Aug. 1, the business will reopen in Powerline Park, at 2312 N.W. 30th Place in Pompano Beach, more than doubling its size to 35,000 square feet. The new store—call it Costume World 2.0—will be a more tailored, VIP experience, with appointments required most days.
“We’re really going through a renaissance period in this country; let’s not kid ourselves,” Wick says. “Everything is changing. There are going to be many brick-and-mortar stores going out because of Amazon, and the packaged goods just can’t hold their weight anymore. The last three years, we’ve seen the change. People actually walk in with a picture from Amazon, [saying] they can get it for less. All our vendors are with them now, and not with us.”
Nevertheless, Costume World will offer a boutique shopping experience for a clientele that still wants to see what it’s buying up close, and try it on. It will have expanded wig, shoe and makeup departments. It will also serve as the official rehearsal space for Wick Theatre productions. Wick plans to open the shop to the public on weekends and the weeks leading up to Halloween.
“Everything will go out of one facility,” she says. “When it’s time for the show, we load up the trucks and go up to the theater, and we’re set.”
Costume World could have been a casualty of changing times and rapacious capitalism. Instead, the forced move might just be a blessing in disguise. If anyone in this industry can handle the tumult, it’s Marilynn Wick. It’s fair to say she’s used to it.
Costume World’s liquidation sale runs through July 22. Visit at 950 S. Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach, or call 954/418-0308.