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Steve Spain’s Costume Trunk: a Main Street tradition for more than 40 years

Costume Trunk / Facebook

There have been dozens of notable businesses to operate on Peoria’s Main Street over the years but perhaps none as distinctive—or dedicated—as the Costume Trunk.

Steve Spain has operated the store at 710 W. Main St. for 41 years—through good times and bad—suffering through two years of the pandemic when many of his regular customers such as theater groups, schools and institutions that routinely need costumes for shows were shut down.

Spain has seen plenty of change right outside his store since 1981. While Steak & Shake, Mr. G’s and Running Central anchored the Main-Sheridan corridor for years, today it’s small businesses that keep the lights on in the area.

Spain has seen other changes. “I am getting to be the last of the Mohicans in the state of Illinois,” he said, referring to the attrition in his industry he’s witnessed.

“So many of my friends and mentors that I was close with (in the costume business) have passed away or retired,” said Spain.

“The costume store in Joliet closed. Two stores in the Quad Cities are gone. Champaign’s store closed and two big stores in Indianapolis are gone now. What used to be eight or nine people that I was close with, now we’re down to one or two,” he said.

“The biggest competition now is the internet,” said Spain, adding that he’s also able to secure business online.

When he’s not fitting out folks as dancers, flappers or riverboat gamblers, Spain minds his collection of Disney art, a collection that has been featured at exhibits at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, most recently in connection with the museum’s Walt Disney film festival held earlier this year.

While most people think of animated movie art consisting of cels, individual frames from the films, themselves, Spain’s collection features a wide variety of art that went into the making of Disney classics like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Pinocchio.”

“I enjoy the animator’s work with paper and pencil,” he said, referring to storyboards, concept art, layout drawings and background pieces.

Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.