Story and photos by Sam Shook, Contributing Writer
When driving down Perkins Road, you will have likely passed an old building with a banner that reads “Thanks for 30 Years!!!” That building is a business that’s a bit of a local phenomenon. Its name is Costumes Balloons & Stuff, faithfully serving Stillwater and fifty miles around; that’s quite a reach for such a humble establishment. Humble is not a word chosen lightly, for it is really a reflection of its kindhearted owner, Maxine Russell. After three decades of bringing joy to many Oklahomans, they are closing their doors by the end of December.
With such a long established business one must wonder how it all started. “By chance,” Maxine said. Her husband ran a costume rental store, which often lent out Santa Claus costumes and sold balloons. One day she happened to be helping some of her husband’s workers look for costume supplies, and that’s when she saw that they needed help. She jumped right in, and from there, Costumes Balloons & Stuff was born.
From then on out, come whatever the occasion, Maxine, her family, and her staff were constantly fulfilling orders for many satisfied customers. If you needed an Easter Bunny costume, they were the place to go. If you wanted to look snazzy for prom season, they have you covered there too, with quite the impressive variety of tuxedos, waistcoats, and ties. When it came to balloons, it didn’t matter if it was for a massive sorority or for a single child, they would get you what you needed. “It’s a happy place,” Maxine said, going on to say how she loved making the people of Stillwater glad, and helping people out of the occasional pinch. Even if it meant travelling across the country to find the pieces she needed for costumes and other Halloween items, Maxine was always willing to do so.
For twenty-five years Costumes, Balloons, & Stuff had steady business, but soon the internet and seasonal costume shops began to take over. That brings us to today, three months away from closing for good. Some residents were shocked, others cried, and many loyal customers called Maxine up to express their surprise at the news. Costumes Balloons & Stuff had such a presence in people’s lives, and touched so many. How could it be over? All of those times saying “I’ll stop by tomorrow” suddenly felt more finite. It was a reminder that there are only a limited number of tomorrows to which things can be postponed.
Across from the first mentioned banner is another, and part of it reads “Time to Quit.” For Maxine, it’s hard, but it’s true. When asked if there was anything she wanted to say to the readers of this magazine, with a tear in her eye, she said “I want you to know that you’re appreciated. Thanks for the last thirty years.” In turn, we would like to let Maxine know that she, too, has always been appreciated, and likely always will be.