For 45 years, Chubby’s Party Emporium has provided people in the Permian Basin community with costumes for all different events including Halloween.
That will soon come to an end as the local, family-owned business, which operates out of a house located on 201 San Jacinto, expects to close by the end of the year.
Tracee Robinson said the reason for the store’s closure is because her mother Liz Atkinson, who is the owner, is currently battling cancer.
The business was started by Robinson’s father Allan Atkinson along with Liz back in the late 70s.
“They started it because my brother and I were in elementary school and we were involved in scouting and as they had events and activities coming up, my parents couldn’t find anything,” Robinson said. “My dad would drive to Midland to a magic shop just to look for a grease paint pen just so that they could paint something. … It just kind of grew from that.”
Robinson said that Allan had previously been an oilfield worker before getting injured. It wasn’t long before he came up with a plan of opening a costume shop.
“While he was home, he had an idea of running a costume shop,” Robinson said. “We went to Dallas and visited a costume shop and brought back some stuff back because we had never been to a costume shop before. My dad put an ad in the Odessa American and it grew from there. It blossomed. It started right here in the living room.”
At the time, the shop was called The Grand Illusion and the store actually operated over by University Boulevard and Dixie Boulevard for a number of years.
It wasn’t until after Allan’s death in 1988 when the store changed its name to Chubby’s Party Emporium and moved to its current location.
The name Chubby’s comes from Allan’s clown name.
“At that point, my mom had quit offering some of the things that they had done because they had all done birthday parties and balloon bouquets and all of those things and my mom couldn’t do that by herself so she worked for a few years over there and ended up closing and moving back over here,” Robinson said.
The store offers costumes for almost everything from pirates to cartoon characters from various movies and TV shows.
“For kids, that just depends on whatever’s currently popular that year,” Robinson said. “For adults, it changes and it changes with what’s current. She’s pretty good about staying up with what’s current and every year, she tries to add on. We have flappers, saloon girls, river boat gamblers, Romans. Some costume characters from toy story like Jessie and woody. We did have the Wizard of Oz but now we only have Dorothy and the Wicked Witch left because we sold the rest. A lot of people want to go in a group and couple costumes. It just depends on the person and what they’re feeling.”
As one would expect, Halloween is usually the busiest time of the year but it’s not just October when business is booming. The store also has numerous customers in need of a Santa Claus and elves outfits during Christmas or bunnies for Easter.
“My mom has downsized since we were over on Dixie but she is open year-round,” Robinson said. “She has done Santas and elves and Easter bunnies. Besides that, she’s also done school plays and community events and all of that. She does all of those things.”
What has made Chubby’s Party Emporium a unique business over the years is that it’s not just a costume shop but also a rental store.
“She’s the only one that’s been in Odessa, that’s been a costume rental shop,” Robinson said. “She was basically the only costume rental business here in the area for a number of years. There were a couple in Midland but neither of them are in business anymore. But she’s managed to do it. What’s really made it the best is she has the best customers. They are the best.”
But with the store closing, Robinson says they are selling most of their costumes to clean up inventory.
Because of that, prices have been marked down.
“The vast majority of costumes are about $20-$40,” Robinson said. “And then we have pieces starting $20 and under. Some actual full costumes are at $20 because she’s had them for a long time.”
Robinson said Liz has made nearly all of the costumes in the house.
“My mom makes almost everything,” Robinson said. “She’s almost always had seamstresses over the years help out who have made things as well. There are a few things, a few costumes that are purchased strictly because she would buy some just to see what they were and to see if they were up to her standards. But when she rents its out, when you rent a gambler, you’re going to get the shirt, the tie, you’re going to get all of it. You are ready to go when you walk out the door. You don’t have to clean it, you just bring it back and she does all of that. You’re going to get everything that goes with it. If you get Santa Claus, you’re going to get the boots, coat, everything.”
Like nearly every other business, Chubby’s did get affected by the pandemic in the spring of last year.
But business soon picked back up.
“(Liz) has been affected by COVID because COVID hit everyone and when it hit in 2020, she already had her Easter bunnies,” Robinson said. “Every one of them got canceled because everyone canceled their events. A couple of people ended up coming in and renting costumes in the end …. My mom was very lucky because yes, COVID did affect her business but customers have continued to rent. She’s been able to manage and make it through.”
Robinson says it’s bittersweet this month with this Halloween being the last one for Chubby’s Party Emporium.
“This Halloween, it’s two-fold,” Robinson said. “It’s hard enough that she’s closing after 45 years. She’s closing because we as a family knew that it would be time enough to do it because she is sick and has cancer. We felt that she didn’t need to do this anymore and enjoy everything. She has a great grandbaby coming this month. … We’ve been putting all the costumes together and marking all of them for sale instead of for rent. They’re basically for sale for their rental price. She has a lot of stuff. We just keep at it and she finds all of these things to make a costume out of. We’ve been putting everything together and putting tags on them with sizes and everything because with COVID, we’re not trying on anything. But we do measurements and put them on the tags so that everyone knows what they’re getting. It’s a lot of work.”
There’s no exact date for when Chubby’s will close.
“I think what we’re doing right now, we’re working on Halloween,” Robinson said. “I’ve had some regular customers call and they’re trying to buy Christmas and Easter bunny costumes that they rent every year. We’re just going to stay open until we get rid of everything.”
Regardless, Robinson says the biggest take away from the last 45 years has been the customers who helped keep the business going.
“My mom would tell you that she has the absolute best customers and is grateful for all their support and they’ve been coming back year after year for 45 years,” Robinson said. “She’s made people happy and they’ve had fun and she’s been grateful to be a part of that in their lives.”