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Susan Stringer works on a gingerbread man, for the Shrek play, costume at Beauty & the Beast Costumes on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. The gingerbread man costume will be repurposed during Christmas season.

Happy Halloween everyone.

Side question: Ever wonder why Christmas is the only holiday we have to apologize for? Some places request the Merry X-Mas to make it less polarizing.

Here's a suggestion: If you don't like Christmas, don't celebrate it.

Halloween, originally known as All Hallows Evening, started as a religious celebration. It was a feast to honor the faithful who died in the previous year, be they saints or sinners.

Wonder if people knew that Halloween started as a religious celebration if it would fall under the Happy Holidays umbrella, too?

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Jay Greeson

Likely not, considering the big business that comes with today's observation of Halloween.

From the candy to the pumpkins to the costumes, holidays lead to holiday sales and celebrations are reasons for business to celebrate.

"Last week was [our biggest week of the year], for sure," Susan Stringer said Monday. "All of the adult parties are the weekend before [Halloween]."

Stringer has been part of the ownership team of Beauty & The Beast Costumes in Red Bank for 28 years.

This is her Super Bowl, final exam and go-zone all rolled into one.

The shop sits next to the Red Bank Lions' Club on Dayton Boulevard, and as soon as you walk in, you know almost anything you could imagine is within reach.

There are masks lining the tops of the windows. There's racks and racks of outfits and accouterments, from gloves and tights to wigs and fake fingernails.

There's even a fully dressed replica of Michael Myers, the murderous villain from the "Halloween" movies, standing next to the door with a note that says "Not for sale" on his chest. (Good thing too. That's a creepy look.)

"I guess the craziest [costumes] are the ones that people walk around and pull different things from different places," she said.

Think Captain Hook's hook with the Beast's robe and maybe Popeye's hat. If you can dream it, Stringer and Co. can deliver it.

Stringer is one of the last of a dying breed. She rents costumes and runs a family operated store in an era when Halloween get-ups are dominated by sales from big brands and the internet.

How rare is Stringer's approach?

"I'm not sure how many of us are left," she said from behind the counter as costume customers walked in and out for last-minute add-ons. "But I know we have regular customers who drive all the way up here from Atlanta to rent costumes."

Beauty & The Beast Costumes makes its year leading up to today, but it makes the books balance because of a constant, if not growing trend of folks looking to rent outfits for almost all holidays.

"We're already starting to get requests for people looking to rent stuff for their Christmas parade," Stringer said.

She said April is surprisingly big because of Easter rentals. And there are folks who will rent Leprechaun outfits for St. Patrick's Day.

Thanksgiving used to be bigger, she said, but maybe the PC folks have made dressing up as Pilgrims and Indians taboo.

As for this year, the biggest adult costume was a very popular and controversial clown.

If you're thinking "Donald Trump," know that was last year. This year, it's Pennywise, the scary clown from the Stephen King classic "It" which has been a box office smash.

"Everyone wanted to be Donald and Hillary last year and we didn't really have good wigs for either," Stringer said. "This year we have some great wigs but no one wants to be political."

Maybe Halloween is on the right track after all.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6343.

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