Bloomberg Businessweek

Alakazam!

Howard Beige knows your 10-year-old wants to be

J.J. Abrams needs a favor.

It’s six weeks before Halloween, and he’s in search of a very specific Star Wars costume, in a very specific size, that’s sold out online. Abrams may have directed last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but when a friend’s daughter wants to be the warrior Rey for Halloween, he still has to track down a costume like a normal person. But of course a normal person wouldn’t have an assistant who can call up Howard Beige, executive vice president of Rubie’s Costume Co., the largest costume maker in the world and the manufacturer of roughly half of all the Halloween costumes sold in the U.S., including all the Star Wars ones. Abrams’s assistant reaches Beige as he pulls up to the Rubie’s factory in Queens, which is churning out rush orders for sold-out costumes. Sitting in his cluttered Mercedes with a drink-stained cupholder and a bag of Famous Amos cookies in the glove compartment, Beige notes the size Abrams is looking for and promises to have the costume sent over right away. He then walks into the facility, where 100 women are frantically sewing purple pants and blazers for Joker costumes from the 2008 movie The Dark Knight.

If you’ve ever dressed up as a movie or television character for Halloween, the costume you bought was probably made by Rubie’s. The odds drop a little with generic characters like witches or vampires—plenty of smaller companies make those—but with more than 20,000 costumes and accessories for sale at retailers like Walmart, Amazon, and Party City, Rubie’s has probably played a part in your Halloween festivities. What started in 1951 as a soda shop/novelty store in Queens has, over the past 65 years, grown into an international business that earns hundreds of millions. (It doesn’t disclose figures, but the analytics firm IbisWorld estimates $251 million in revenue in the U.S.) Rubie’s has 3,000 employees, contracts with 12 factories in China, owns four factories in the U.S., and runs six large warehouses, four on Long Island, one in Arizona, and one in South Carolina. Rubie’s has also spawned 15 subsidiaries in countries such as Japan, the Netherlands, and the U.K. It sells Carnival costumes in Brazil, Day of the Dead dresses in Mexico, and Easter Bunny and Santa Claus

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