How's Work?: Tailor to the Elves
Mikie Benton helps 'Burghers look like Santa and other whimsical characters year-round.
Photo by Renee Rosensteel
Name: Mikie Benton
Home: Middlesex Township
Before opening Costumes Etc! in Butler County, how did you get started?
My mother had a balloon business, where we delivered balloons in costumes. We had an elephant. We had a pink hippo with spots — and then a gorilla. People started asking, “Can we borrow your costumes? Can we rent your costumes?” Then it just exploded.
Who are your customers around Christmastime?
Do you sell to a lot of mall Santas? It runs the gamut, from grandpas who want to dress up like Santa for their little grandkids to professional mall Santas. We ship all over the world.
What level of detail are customers demanding?
We have had phone conversations that last 30 minutes. Some guys ask a lot of questions about how [the suits] are lined, [or] the color. It’s always different.
What are some of the unusual variations on the Santa outfit?
We do a “Sunny Claus,” which is a Santa in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt — perfect for summer or beach wear [because] a lot of people do “Christmas in July” parties. We do a Victorian Santa, which has the long robe. We do an old-time Santa [that] has a hood and a jacket that hits about the knee length.
You have a line of “sexy” Santa and Mrs. Claus outfits. When did those come along?
About eight or nine years ago. The whole sexy-costume business has exploded off the rocker. We have some that are sexy-sexy, and we have some that I call “modest sexy.” They do very well for us. People wear them to office parties.
What non-Santa Christmas costumes are popular?
Elves. We design our own elf costumes. One was used in the Hallmark Channel movie Naughty or Nice last year. Those tend to be big for us because they are good quality at a good price. Outside of that, the reindeer are popular.
What’s the best part of your job?
Christmas customers are the nicest customers. I think to play Santa you have to be a nice person. I am always dealing with Santa, so it’s not like I ever get calls yelling and swearing.