By Abbie Bennett
Carrboro Commons Co-Editor
Customers come from all over the United States to shop and take advantage of expert costume consulting at Surplus Sid’s at 309 East Main St.
in Carrboro, according to owner Barry “Sid” Keith.
“We like to call ourselves world-famous Halloweenists,” Keith said. “We’ve had people from all over the state, even from New York here.”
Keith said he loves Halloween because it’s the one time each year people get to be selfishly creative.
“It’s one totally self-indulgent holiday,” he said. “You get to be anything you want.”
A 1978 UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, Keith opened Surplus Sid’s in 1988 and says Halloween in Carrboro and Chapel Hill was big then, and has only gotten bigger since.
“It’s done nothing but grow,” Keith said. “What we sold back then, we sell in 10 minutes now.”
While Halloween in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area has grown since 1988, Keith said some things never change.
“People will invariably wait until the last minute, then expect a fantastic costume,” he said. “But we always try to give the most personal service possible.”
Surplus Sid’s and Keith have become local celebrities in Carrboro and the surrounding area for costume expertise. Keith has helped people create amazing costume experiences throughout the years, including renting a horse in 1997 for a Lady Godiva costume, Chronicles of Riddick characters and Star Wars Jawas. Keith said he even put a 7-foot UNC basketball player in a Predator costume.
“I’m willing to work with just about any idea,” Keith said. “The crazier the better. I’ll help out as much as I can, and we definitely have materials for everything.”
Keith said female customers are often a challenge to please.
“Not to be antifeminist or anything, but in my experience, even if she wants to be a bunch of grapes, she’s going to want to be a sexy bunch of grapes,” he said, jokingly.
Keith said it’s all about what the customers want.
“We’re pushing the door at about 5,000 costumes,” he said. “We try to add something new every year. We just added 31 new ones yesterday.”
Almost as many of his customers rent costumes from Surplus Sid’s as buy them, according to Keith, customers who buy costumes get their money’s worth.
“We’ve got people wearing costumes for five, six, seven years because they like them so much,” Keith said.
Keith said many of his customers come in looking to build on existing costumes, especially ones they’ve kept around for years.
Surplus Sid’s provides commercial costumes that are already put together as well as pieces that can be used to build costumes and props from the ground up.
Keith has engineered sarcophagi, coffins, electric chairs and robots. He said he’s in the process of building a flying saucer for the roof of his business as well as another electric chair in time for Halloween.
The costumes at Surplus Sid’s come from close-out sales, donations, military and government surplus, even estate sales. Keith said it’s all about keeping costs low.
“The less we can charge, the more money we save customers,” he said.
Keith said during his time as a UNC-Chapel Hill student, he frequented Franklin Street on Halloween, but now he’s usually busy. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a good sense of humor about working so hard.
“People always ask me, ‘Sid, what are you going to be for Halloween?’ and I always say, ‘Exhausted.,’” he joked.
Keith has a passion for the holiday, despite not participating himself.
“I think if I couldn’t be creative, I’d go stark-raving mad,” he said. “Imagination makes the world a better place, and that’s what we think we do here. Halloween never goes out of style.”
For Keith, there’s little downside to being in the Halloween business.
“There’s such a thing as too much of a good thing, but I’ve always thought I had a sick personality. I like scaring people,” he said. “I make a business out of selling the weird and wild to the wicked and unwashed.”
Anna Marie Stevens, a 28-year-old Carrboro resident, homemaker, mother of two and customer of Surplus Sid’s, said it’s not just the ultimate costume destination, it’s a great place to browse for just about anything.
“He’s got everything in that store,” she said. “From furniture to clothes and props, military uniforms, odds and ends. It’s definitely not just a costume one-stop, even though it definitely is that. It’s also a great place to just go look around. It’s fascinating and so Carrboro.”