In a reversal of fortune for San Francisco’s costume culture, Costumes on Haight isn’t closing after all and could stay alive long-term if an upcoming liquidation sale goes well.
Just two days after news broke that the beloved 29-year-old Lower Haight store would close its doors, staff tried to assure its devoted customers that it wasn’t true through its Instagram account. According to owner Danny Tague, the former store manager, Gordon McLaughlin, spread false words without telling him.
“I was sad that anyone would take that road,” says Tague, who is on dialysis four days a week and cannot look after the store himself. “Quitting is just never an option.”
Indeed, the year-round costume store had a good amount of debt left by former managers in the past, Tague says. But shortly after McLaughlin departed, Austin Erflud stepped in as manager amid vocal community support and thought closing the store didn’t make sense.
“There are clearly customers coming in,” Efurd says. “I started to look at the numbers.”
Efurd and Tague consolidated debt at the bank, stopped renting space next door for storage, and cut store hours to dramatically reduce overhead costs. The remaining six employees — which Efurd calls “some of nightlife’s most creative creatures” — kept word of a liquidation sale within the artistic communities they’re part of, bringing in enough revenue to stay afloat for some time.
Partnering with groups like How Weird Street Faire, Comfort & Joy, and Burning Man camp Glam Cocks could be key to its long-term viability beyond character costumes. After all, creative and alternative types drawn to such events need stores like Costumes on Haight to stay lively, Erfud says.
Plus, when Tague and his partner opened the store nearly 30 years ago, acceptance for LGBT people looked very different. Closing a store that continues to help queer folks like Efurd express themselves adds another layer of loss.
“The way that we honor them is by using those liberties,” Efurd says.
But this weekend is make-it-or-break-it to keep the store open long-term, he says. Costumes on Haight is holding another liquidation sale on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., selling what were once rental costumes among other items.
If the store makes it through, its regular spring hours are Thursday to Saturday from 11 a.m to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Follow the store’s Instagram account @costumesonhaight for updates.