Despite the pandemic, Ed Emerson was ready to bet on a Marion business. This veteran purchased Promo Costumes in Downtown Marion in September 2020 from long-time owners Lyn and Dan Giles. Emerson drives from his home in the Brewery District in Columbus to his enterprise on West Center Street. The unassuming storefront leads into a 20,000- foot, multi-story operation to make custom character costumes and mascots for clients around the country.
Marion feels like home to Emerson. His mother, Virginia Hall, owned a hair, tanning, and nail salon on Center Street for decades. Hall and other family members still live here. Emerson grew up in Bucyrus. He attended college classes on the Marion Campus. Emerson served in the Ohio Air National Guard before entering the corporate world.
Emerson was a customer of Promo Costumes 20 years ago. He knew the Giles professionally before approaching them about buying the company. One of the biggest assets he kept was seven employees with decades of experience.
“This is a very talented and dedicated staff that takes great pride in their work,” Emerson said. “It’s really a team effort. They deserve credit for our successes. I don’t do this by myself.”
Emerson and his staff are passionate about their products.
“I love designing sports mascots. It is cool to be a part of a college’s history,” Emerson said. He just finished the two new Husky mascots for Marion Technical College that were unveiled on Saturday at a 50th-anniversary celebration.
“It is exciting to see this new set of mascots come to life,” said Dr. Ryan McCall, president of Marion Tech. “We wanted something fresh and new to kick off the next 50 years. I’m very pleased with the results and the customer service. It’s wonderful to have a specialized need and find the solution in your own backyard.”
In addition to colleges and schools, clients include health care providers, charities, amusement parks, candy companies, and area attractions. Promo costume creations can be spotted annually in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as the Mt. Rushmore characters. They can be found locally with Mark, the MarionMade! mascot and Swoop, the Marion Public Library icon.
“Kids really associate with Swoop who is another tool to keep kids excited about reading and connected to Marion Public Library,” said Diane Watson, communications manager with the Marion Public Library.
Emerson has helped design hundreds of costumes. The stellar reputation and client base of Promo Costumes have helped Emerson weather the pandemic.
“They made many costumes in 22 years. There are many long-term customers with repeat orders, so I’m not starting out cold. After a decade, costumes wear out and need to be updated or replaced,” Emerson said.
While most of Emerson’s clients are out-of-state, he has support from area companies.
“The Marion community has been really welcoming,” Emerson states. “I like the downtown. I try to keep my business local.” He hired local companies for needs from catering to insurance.
In addition to creating mascots, they also clean, repair and store the costumes as well as making custom shipping and storage containers. The gigantic facility has helped them socially distance themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect employees and customers. As orders have increased, Emerson has been able to bring all seven employees back into the operation to sew, stuff, clean, and design. Together, they bring creative visions to life.
Emerson’s excitement for design and creativity comes through as he flies up and down staircases at his downtown company. Though it can take months to go from a design idea to an end product, Emerson finds it worth the journey to develop a product that will joyfully represent an entity for years to come.