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After 40 years in business, Las Vegas costume shop is closing

If you ring the doorbell and gain entrance past the barred door in the strip mall along West Sahara Avenue, the rows upon rows of clothing can intimidate.

Almost 4,000 square feet. Three thousand costumes. Seven hundred hats. Five hundred wigs.

A wall of bride and groom photos shows marriages for a Superman and Superwoman, a crew in Star Trek attire and the titular genie and her master from “I Dream of Jeannie.”

In the back, the masks of U.S. presidents, Abraham Lincoln cheek to cheek with George W. Bush, and snarling dragons look down on a suit of armor.

“Someone thought they could actually wear that,” said owner Martin Sadowitz, 71. “It’s hard to move in. I tried to talk them into a plastic one.”

American Costumes marks 40 years of business this year. But the milestone is bittersweet. On Thursday, the costume rental business began a store closing sale.

For the past 20 years, the business has occupied a store in a strip mall near the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue.

American’s landlord, the Gold &Beyond consignment shop also in the strip mall, will expand into the costume store’s space, allowing it to grow to almost 10,000 square feet, Gold CEO Roi Zalach said.

American — which counted Siegfried &Roy among its clients and sold Elvis and gorilla costumes for a Penn &Teller TV series — will sell a new inventory online or in another brick-and-mortar space if it moves.

The business has started an account on the eBay e-commerce marketplace. But Sadowitz doesn’t want to lug his current inventory with him when he leaves the strip mall.

“I want to avoid the trials and tribulations of moving,” he said.

American Costumes came to life in the 1970s when Sadowitz got requests to rent the outfit he wore as a singing telegram.

Since then, weddings, themed corporate events, conventions and film crews have brought business to Sadowitz.

Elvis and Marilyn Monroe costumes are always top sellers. “Every man should be Elvis once in a lifetime,” Sadowitz said.

Burning Man brings high demand for goggles. And though Sadowitz hates to say it, celebrity deaths bring sales. He remembers the volume of calls after Michael Jackson died in 2009 and Prince in 2016.

“I’ll have to find my John McCain masks,” Sadowitz said.

Customers have also made requests that reflect contemporary culture as well. Sadowitz found shirts with rounded collars that fit the 1920s England setting for an event themed around the TV series “Peaky Blinders.”

American isn’t the first legacy costume business to close its doors in recent years. Williams Costume Co. downtown closed in April 2017 after the death of its owner.

Longtime American Costumes customer Jaki Baskow said her talent agency has had less need for costumes in bulk over the years.

In the past five years, she’s noticed that showgirls and performers looking for work will bring their own costumes, Baskow said.

“I try to go online as little as possible; I like to see and feel,” Baskow said. “But I understand this is the new way of the world.”

Contact Wade Tyler Millward at 702-383-4602 or wmillward@reviewjournal.com. Follow @wademillward on Twitter.

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