Local teachers sport secret identities
by Beckye Randall
Laurie Faaberg teaches second grade at Sunnyside Elementary. Her sister Becky Walsh is a literacy coach at Pinewood and Marshall elementaries. But after school the two women exchange their conservative work clothes for more elaborate creations, becoming Gussie and Gertie.
The sisters operate a costume rental and design business out of Faaberg’s Arlington home. The space is roomy and well-organized, and rack displays are supplemented by colorful catalog descriptions of their 1200-plus costumes and accessories.
Starting a costume business happened almost by accident, according to Walsh. “My husband and Laurie are big garage sale fans,” she said. One Saturday about three years ago, she got a call from the duo saying “Get up to Bow. You won’t believe what we bought. Oh, and bring trucks.”
As Walsh quickly discovered, her sister and husband had purchased the inventory of a costume shop run by a woman who was moving to Norway. The 500 costumes had to be moved that day, so they ended up temporarily “stored” in her son’s living room.
Over the past three years, the sisters have meticulously organized, repaired and cataloged the collection, which has grown through additional purchases, supplemented by Faaberg’s sewing skills and a few donations.
Gussie & Gertie’s provides costume rentals for theatrical productions in many local schools, and their list of private clients continues to grow. People seek them out for Halloween, murder mystery parties, and even weddings.
A miniature Elvis jumpsuit, complete with sequins and cape, was made especially for a ringbearer in a local wedding with a “Love Me Tender” theme. And a man requested a ballerina’s tutu and leotard, for himself, for a rehearsal dinner. Gussie and Gertie are happy to oblige.
The racks are filled with costumes for belly dancers, Star Trek officers, giant bunnies, and medieval knights, plus thousands of other creations. Each section is carefully labeled and individual tags quickly indicate the costume size and rental cost.
“Most costumes rent for $35,” said Faaberg, “although we do have a few expensive specialty items that we rent for $70.”
Their children’s costume collection is impressive, and rental prices are generally $25. The women are considering eliminating the children’s section, except for a few very unique pieces, because of the cost of handling, cleaning and repairing them.
“We really want to grow in quality,” explained Faaberg, “and pay attention to what people ask for.”
And the name of the business? “That’s what our dad called us,” said Walsh. “Whenever he stumbled on our names, he’d just call us Gussie and Gertie – it didn’t matter which was which.”
The sisters’ business is open by appointment, generally between 4 and 8 p.m. each day, although they find themselves at the store later during the Halloween season.
If you haven’t found the perfect Halloween costume yet, give Gussie and Gertie a call at (360) 435-7885. Costume rentals aren’t handled online, but visitors can peruse a sample of the store’s collection at www.gussieandgertie.com. And remember, “you are what you pretend to be.”