Landmark LA Costume Store Prepares For Halloween
To walk through the doors of Ozzie Dots is to experience sensory overload. Chicken suits hang from the ceiling, neon tutus puff out from overstuffed clothing racks, rows of novelty sunglasses line the glass display cases—the store is overflowing with sexy, funny, gory, flashy, and strange clothing, yet Daniel Hazen, the curator of this dazzling show, stands behind the counter in a nondescript blue t-shirt. Don’t let that fool you. He started this business because he loves Halloween.
Hazen’s Hollywood Boulevard store is one of the oldest independently owned costume stores in Los Angeles, which has been in operation since 1985 occupying its current, rainbow-colored Los Feliz space since 1994.
“[Halloween] is the one time of year when people can be whoever they want to be,” Hazen says.
Love of Halloween is in Hazen’s blood—costumes are his family business. After starting his career working in children’s television with Sid and Marty Krofft Productions, Hazen, 64, got into vintage clothing and costumes through his brothers who were working at a vintage store in the 1970s. Eventually they became business owners. Hazen’s brother Darrell now owns Hidden Treasures, a vintage store in Topanga Canyon.
This lifelong dedication to vintage pieces and costumes is about more than just dressing up. For Hazen, it goes deeper than that. He sees himself as a peddler of the supplies for self-expression.
“[At Ozzie Dots] we want individualism, we want people to create,” he says.
Many mom-and-pop costume stores around the country have struggled to compete with Internet sales or “pop-up” Halloween stores, which appear for one or two months out of the year selling mass-produced costumes. Hazen says the unique offerings of his store keep him in business.
“We do something entirely different. There's no way they can touch us…If you do something good, if you produce something that the public wants, you're going to win, there's no way about it.”
For one thing, Ozzie Dots does sell the kind of pre-made costumes that you might find in a seasonal Halloween store, but about half of their stock is made up of one-of-a-kind vintage pieces. That earns them year-round business—not just October business—from the entertainment industry, including period shows like Mad Men.
Hazen also keeps close relationships with costume manufacturers that allow him to offer quality costumes at reasonable prices. An average costume at Ozzie Dots runs about $35 with some accessory pieces and sale items available for under $5 and a few more elaborate costumes running up into triple digits.
“We listened to our customers. We've heard for years, 'We don't want those packaged costumes,’” Hazen said. “I think what they're speaking of are those drugstore-packaged costumes, or costumes from those stupid ‘pop-up’ stores. It’s got a pretty picture on it, but it's a piece of junk inside the costume bag.”
Hazen says his quality- and uniqueness-centered business model works. For about two weeks leading up to Halloween, he says, costume seekers line up around the block waiting to get in and when closing time comes, it’s hard to get them to leave.
Hazen wants his customers to come up with original costume ideas, but says it’s his responsibility is to be creative too.
“We want to make sure that Halloween is different every year,” Hazen said, explaining that he pitches new ideas to costume manufacturers routinely. He credits himself with turning costume companies onto the idea of Steampunks, for example.
While he strives toward costume diversity, Hazen acknowledges that every Halloween has its trends. He predicts this will be a big year for zombies as the pirate costumes that were in demand a few years ago fall out of fashion. And while some old standbys like witches haven’t been popular for years, Hazen thinks they’re due for a comeback. This year, since Halloween falls on a Wednesday, Hazen also expects a lot of Dia De Los Muertos festivities on Friday, Nov. 2 because, as he puts it, no matter the date or occasion, “people just want to party.”
Ask Hazen if he's partying or dressing up this year and he laughs and rolls his eyes. By the time the end of October arrives, he’ll be too exhausted to go out.
As he wanders the floor of his festive store helping customers, Hazen pops a golden viking helmet over his short grey hair one moment then holds a ruffled pink tuxedo shirt up under his chin a minute later. He may not be going out on Oct. 31, but it’s easy to see he celebrates Halloween every day of the year.
Reach Staff Reporter Katherine Davis here.