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Longtime Denton costume shop Rose Costumes to move into old McNeill's space

Each of the 15 dressing rooms at the current location of Rose Costumes are uniquely themed. The store rents costumes to customers throughout the country for Halloween and theater productions.
Jake King
DRC file photo
Each of the 15 dressing rooms at the current location of Rose Costumes are uniquely themed. The store rents costumes to customers throughout the country for Halloween and theater productions.

Locals have seen the hints on the door of the old McNeill's appliance store building on the Square.

A Subway? A vape shop? You have been vocal. Think again, it's something more local. 

On April Fool's Day the sign gave its final clue: Coming Soon - Rosie's vape shop, tattoo parlor and chainsaw repair. 

Iconic Denton business Rose Costumes will move into its new home on the Square around July 1, and owner Annemarie Aldrich said she and her crew — two full time employees and two part-time staffers — are excited to relocate the historic Denton business to the iconic downtown Square.

"We are so, so excited," Aldrich said. "I believe things happen for a reason and I believe this happened for a reason."

Rose Costumes got its start as a Fry Street resale shop called Secondhand Rose in 1976, where owner Judy Smith applied her workhorse of a sewing machine to blue jeans for students at the University of North Texas. Her late husband, Jim, ran a diner out of the same building. Before long, students were asking Judy Smith if they might be able to rent the vintage clothes, and that started her down the road to designing, building and renting costumes as well as buying costumes to rent out. The shop moved to Elm Street for a while before relocating to its current location at Presidio Plaza just north of University Drive, which many a longtime Denton resident still calls the outlet mall.

Aldrich said the costume shop has enjoyed some perks at the plaza. It has more than 10,000-square-feet of shop floor that Smith carefully decorated, as she did at the Elm Street location, where the bathroom was Sherlock Holmes's study (even the air freshener was swaddled in a proper English can cozy). Smith relocated a shockingly-good homage to Alfred Hitchcock's blood-bathed shower from Psycho along one wall of the Presidio Plaza location. Aldrich said she and her staff had a lot of room to spread out. As Christmas approached, there were racks of Santa Claus costumes, and more than a dozen Easter bunny numbers.

And the parking is unparalleled.

"We're already talking about how to deal with parking on Oak Street," Aldrich said of the limited spots around and near the Square.

But Aldrich said the business, which she bought from Smith in 2018 after joining the shop as a business manager in 2015, was facing an existential crisis.

"It all came down to the rent," she said. "Rent has gone up and gone up. Our lease is up this year, and everything came down to either finding a new place or closing."

It wasn't the first time Rose Costumes has faced financial troubles. When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered businesses and schools, Aldrich watched the bottom fall out. She was about to rent costumes to high school theater departments preparing for University Interscholastic League contest. Across the country, community and nonprofit theater companies went dark.

The staff at Rose Costumes weathered the storm by making tens of thousands of cloth masks and tapping into a deep well of goodwill in Denton, raising $18,025 in a $100,000 GoFundMe fundraising campaign.

But Aldrich met her match in the form of that looming, ever-climbing rent. Aldrich considered a barebones warehouse, but knew putting the magical touches on it that have made Rose Costumes an experience would be nearly impossible.

Then came providence: her friendship with Maya Leptuch. The two met when Aldrich enrolled her son at the Koan School, a scrappy private school in Denton that operates on a 15-acre farmstead.

"We met through the school and we became friends," she said.

Peter Leptuch, Maya's husband and owner of Denton MEP, said the couple enjoys old homes and historical architecture. They live on Oak Street in the historical district, and Leptuch said the realtor who brokered their house purchase let them know the McNeill's space was going to be on the market. His office used to be on the second floor of the Texas Building, just next to McNeill's. He moved the office to a location at Oak Street and Carroll Boulevard, but said they needed something larger. He and his wife toured the McNeill's space.

"One thing led to another and we ended up buying it," Leptuch said.

It didn't take long for the Leptuchs to decide that they would use the second floor of McNeill's as an office for his mechanical, engineering and plumbing design business. The first floor, he said, would be leased to another local business.

"I look at buildings all day long," Leptuch said. "And then I fit those systems inside the existing buildings. I have a really good ability to visualize spaces. And when I walked into this space, it was not too flattering just coming through the front doors. But when we got towards the rear of that space and went up the staircase to the lower second level, I immediately saw the potential of the space and instantly envisioned exactly what it would look like the renovations were complete."

The Leptuchs knew Aldrich was in a pinch with the Presidio Plaza, and offered the space to her. The space will retain the original tile ceiling and the historical staircase. Aldrich will be able to decorate and organize the space to suit the operations and the customers. The two businesses will split the 6,000-square feet of McNeill's.

The Leptuchs have seen the social media buzz about the space.

"We've had a blast watching it," Leptuch said of the guesses and discussions he's followed on the Denton subreddit.

Aldrich said she's going to be having some sales to pare down the massive inventory. They'll continue to serve schools, community theaters, themed weddings and Halloween customers who want something specific, like a Game of Thrones-style outfit or ballgown with matching mask and headpiece.

She said she's looking forward to being part of the community, whether it's participating in Denton Pride events, Holiday Lighting Festival or joining the other downtown stores in Halloween trick-or-treating on the Square.

Mostly, though, Aldrich said she's happy to keep the business open and maintain the legacy. She said she couldn't have done it without a new space.

"With so many local businesses closing, it's nice to be able to move onto the Square. Pete and Maya value local businesses. Pete and Maya are just saints," Aldrich said. "They're just some of the most good human beings that I've ever met ... I believe we were brought to each other's lives for a reason. Good people find good people. And it's, yeah, it's just divine."