The Ritz: Halloween Central

Gettin on The Ritz, from toe to head. (RNG)

This time of year one of the busiest spots in Boulder is The Ritz, a creative super shop where the city’s best costumes fly out the door and make every Halloween party that much better.

Open since 1977, The Ritz sells vintage and contemporary clothing year round but is certainly best known for its inventive Halloween costumes, the sheer variety of which helps Boulderites unfurl their inner freak flags every year.

In all its creative glory, The Ritz is an antidote to those cellophane-wrapped, mass-produced polyester costume shops that pop up every October in soulless retail spaces.

If you’re seeking a more clever and creative Halloween outfit; if you want to make a statement about the issues of the day, or if you’re simply seeking inspiration, you’re going to love The Ritz. It all starts with the staff, all of whom really, really look the part.

Employee Shane Schoolman goes hairy.

Employee Shane Schoolman goes hairy.

“Every employee is like a walking costumed mannequin,” explains owner Susan Nutting. “Customers come in and aren’t sure what they want to be. Then they see one of our employees all decked out in a costume and say I want to be that!

Born-again creatives themselves, every Ritz staff member is glitzed up to the hilt in colorful wigs, leggings, facial hair, trilbies, tutus, makeup and more.

“The best part about working here is the creativity,” says store manager Tiffany Zarr. “We get to use imagination every time we help someone put an outfit together.”

Originality has made The Ritz a Halloween institution. Customers return year after year and find all new ideas; seasonal employees return too. In fact, three flew in (one from Vermont) to re-join the Halloween crew for a month of hard – but imaginative – work.

“Our employees love to be here,” Nutting says.

Throughout October, the shop buzzes with Boulderites seeking to become someone else for a night. It’s mayhem on the Wednesday before Halloween, with procrastinators crowding in at noon and expected to keep the place humming until closing at 10 o’clock.

When she launched The Ritz, Ms. Nutting says her focus was wholly on vintage attire but a persistent group of customers seeking dress-up clothes helped sway her to add costumes to the mix.

“At the time a friend of mine said, you know, you can’t be all things to all people,” she says with a wry smile. “But I decided to try and fill the need. And here we are.”

Where we are is amid the chaos of The Ritz’s back room, where people zoom in and out carrying merchandise and paperwork, dressed as pirates, zombies and witches. All the while customers crowd the floor, searching for racked treasures.



Ms. Zarr says this year’s hottest “costume” is Steampunk, a fluctuating mix of sci-fi-industrial-Victorian-western-futuristic getups that resemble, in the words of Urban Dictionary, “what the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.”

According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend $6.9 billion this Halloween, more than doubling the 2005 figure of $3.29 billion. It’s nice to see a longtime, hometown, homegrown hero like The Ritz getting a piece of that pie.

The Ritz sells high quality costumes of every kind. It is open year-round and also carries a large selection of contemporary fashions and fun greeting cards.

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