Harrison County

A Biloxi costume shop is closing after 47 years. The owners blame Amazon.

They’ve done everything they could to keep it open, but now the Locklar family that has owned Josette’s and costumed the Coast since 1972 says it’s time to close.

A closing date hasn’t been set. After 47 years in business, starting on Live Oak Avenue in Pascagoula, it will take several months to sell everything in the 25,000-square-foot building on the corner of Howard and Caillavet streets in Biloxi.

The former dairy with its 16-foot ceilings is packed with merchandise — “every inch and crevice of it,” said Crystal Locklar, who runs the business with her husband, Jacob Locklar. The store is named for his mom, Josette, who opened it in 1972 with her husband Tex.

The liquidation sale will roll out in phases. Purchases of $50 or more will get 25% off. A selection of dresses with plenty of bling are marked down to $10. Fabrics are discounted, and she said they have more than 300 bolts just of brocades and 1,500 full bolts of sequin fabrics. Most costume rentals are being sold for two times the rental price, so if the costume rents for $25, it’s on sale for $50.

Costumes that will be used in local productions along with tuxedos will continue to be rented and won’t be sold until later this year, she said.

Crystal posted on social media late Tuesday that the business was closing. By Thursday, she said the post has had 53,000 views and almost 800 shares. “Today it’s been wall-to-wall people,” she said.

The shop is listed online as a “retailer of costumes for holidays, parties & theater, plus fabric, dancewear, makeup & accessories.” It’s where generations have gone to buy or rent a Halloween costume, to get a costume for their first school play, to buy a tiara or fabric for a Mardi Gras ball. It’s where people who work at local casinos buy the required shoes or shirts.

News of the store’s closing online is bringing people from all across the region to the store for the sale, and yet the owners say the internet is responsible for its closing.

“Amazon specifically,” Crystal said.

“We’ve just done everything we possibly can to keep the doors open,” she said, but the store is no longer profitable.

It hurts, she said, when people come in and say, “I want to try this on. I want to know what size to order online.”

People would come in and say they wanted the same price they saw on Amazon, she said. Vendors restricted Josette’s from selling on the internet, but then began doing it themselves at nearly the same price as they charged Josette’s with a $5,000 minimum order.

Add the temporary costume stores that pop up in South Mississippi a month or two before Halloween and she said, “There was no possible way to compete.”

DeAnn Milly, costume mistress from South Baldwin Theater Group in Gulf Shores, Alabama, learned about the social media post about the store closing.

“Of course I had to come see it,” she said.

“You can’t buy on Amazon or Walmart.com the kind of costume they have here,” she said. Many of the costumes are custom made.

“The costumes are as important as anything in the production,” she said, and besides the loss of a place to outfit local theater groups, dance companies and Mardi Gras krews, it’s also the loss of “a beautiful family-run business,” she said.

Gulfport Little Theater and Wings at Lynn Meadow Discovery Center have come to Josette’s for a lot of their costumes, Crystal said.

“Ninety percent of the theater business is from at least 2 hours away from here,” she said, and with rumors of other costume shops in the region also facing closing, the only place left to get these products may be online.

For now, the Christmas room at Josette’s is full of Santa suits, the Antebellum dresses and Easter bunny costumes are still available along with a big variety of trains and collars and king and queen costumes for Mardi Gras.

The building is for sale and Crystal said she has gone back to college to get a nursing degree and Jacob also has some prospects for a new job.

It will be a big change for the couple that worked most every holiday outfitting others.

“I think it would be really fun to go to Pirate Day in the Bay,” she said.

Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.