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No surprise the Easter Bunny is huge hit at Tacoma costume store

Tradition comes in all shapes, and in this case, one standard bunny size.

Mary and Tom Johnson of Northwest Costume have been washing, drying, steaming and sewing bunny suits for nearly three decades. With Easter just around the corner, it is no surprise the festive rabbit is getting the royal treatment.

“We rent fun,” said Mary, who owns the store with her husband Tom. “With costumes you can get away. When they rent the bunny, it’s like reliving their childhood through the eyes of their children.”

For $69 a rental, the bunnies are a huge hit. The Johnsons have 20 bunny costumes available in their trendy two-story Sixth Avenue location, and, according to Mary, the rabbit costumes are hopping off the shelves as customers prepare for the holiday.

According to Mary, the costume store grew out of their photography business of creating vintage portraits out of their home.

“We started creating costumes (for the photo shoots), working it into our business,” she said. “I created all the costumes.”

It did not take long before she had a sizable collection of costumes and accessories.

Today, the costume showroom holds a remarkable collection of masks, gowns, jewelry, hair and fashion accessories — with the occasional Groucho Marx mustache and glasses thrown in.

Mary and Tom work relentlessly to help patrons find the perfect costume, transforming themselves into the starlets, pirates or cowboys of their dreams.

Walking in the store, the fantasy is not limited to the costumes. Mary said they designed the inside of the store to have a 1930s theater vibe.

“We went ahead and created this environment,” she said. “We want people to have an escape, have a wonderful experience.”

Speaking of fantasies, there’s Rudolph Valentino, the 1920s silent movie heartthrob. Marilyn Monroe, King Henry Vlll and the “King,” Elvis Presley.

But this week, at the top of the costume heap sits the fuzzy rabbit.

Behind a velvet burgundy curtain, the Johnsons run a spa for costumes. It takes hours of meticulous work to clean the artificial fur of the bunny heads, Mary said.

“We wash everything,” she said, before a costume is let out the door.

Gliding gracefully in a high-heeled tightrope walk, between sequined gowns and rows of unblinking bunnies, Caroline Donovan, 19, swoops low and gathers up two rabbit heads for a “wash and set” in the laundry room.

“My job is usually fluffing the bunny after he gets his glorious spa treatment,” said Donovan, who has worked at the costume shop during the last three years. 

Two days before Easter, it’s all hands on deck. 

Mary said the bunny costumes are in high demand, which means she will be rewashing costumes into the wee hours during the next couple of days to get the rabbit suits to as many clients as possible.

Many of the same faces come back for the bunnies year after year, rain or shine, Mary said.

“And if it is raining I sometimes suggest a big golf umbrella,” she said. “You can hang plastic Easter eggs off of it and stay dry.”

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