AUSTINTOWN -- Stephanie Agler has been making her own clothes since she was 8, and before that time, she made clothes for her Barbie doll.
She has now taken that talent and turned it into a business making, selling and renting costumes.
Like most small businesses, Agler's Unique Costume slowly evolved as the result of a variety of circumstances.
Agler's grandmother was a seamstress. "My grandmother had a no-frills electric sewing machine and as an 8-year-old, I was dying to use it. She knew that if she didn't show me the proper way to use it, I would sneak, so she taught me," Agler said.
After high school she obtained an associate degree from Clarissa's School of Fashion in Pittsburgh. While doing her internship at JoAnn Fabrics in Boardman, she began a little business on the side making formal wear, including bridal gowns.
Her customers would bring her patterns or pictures and she would create the dress. She also worked at different establishments doing alterations.
In the mid-'80s Agler, her husband and a group of friends began going to an annual Halloween party. "The same people would go to the party every year, so we couldn't wear the same costume and we couldn't even trade. We had to have something original every year," she said.
The costumes began accumulating and Agler did not want them to go to waste, so she and a friend started with 11 costumes and displayed them in Agler's basement and began selling them. "I got a vendor's license and we only ran the business in October," she said. "People would call and ask if I had an angel costume and I'd say yes and then run down to the basement and make it."
When Agler gets special orders for a costume, she likes to hurry and get the job done so she can admire it before the customer picks it up. "I get very attached my work," she said.
Agler also said she was very cautious when it comes to expanding her business. "After we had the success in October, we decided to put an ad in the yellow pages to see if there was interest for costumes year round. I always want to test the waters," she said.
In 1994 her husband, Jim, told her he'd found the perfect location for her first shop.
& quot;It was very small and it was located at 5576 Mahoning Ave. By then my friend was no longer in the business with me. I stayed there 21/2 years and then moved to the Westgate Plaza where I stayed three years," she said.
She moved to her current location in the Upstairs Lounge building in 1999. "I have thousands of costumes. Some I made and others were bought. I also have a full line of accessories such as hats, wigs, makeup, jewelry and party supplies," she said.
Agler enjoys her business. "You meet all kinds of people and it's really fun, but I take it seriously," she said. "I know my customers are really counting on me to make their event special."