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'Disco' partygoers take note: Betsy Ross Costumes closes Clarence shop

Customers looking for the gaudiest outfits for the "World's Largest Disco" or the scariest costumes for a Halloween bash have flocked to Betsy Ross Costumes in Clarence for decades.

Now, the party is over – at least for that Main Street storefront.

Betsy Ross Costumes has closed its brick-and-mortar location and only conducts sales online.

And the company's co-founder sold the building this week to Swiatek Studios, an architectural restoration business that plans to move there from South Buffalo.

"It was just time to go," said Judy Ross, a co-founder who continued in recent years to help out her daughter, Betsy.

The store was a family affair from the beginning.

Judy Ross co-founded the business in 1976 with Betsy and her son, William, and with help from her husband, Charles.

The business started out renting equipment for construction projects, lawn work and other uses.

"You name it, we had it," Judy Ross said.

The Rosses started renting out items for parties and, later, added costumes about 35 years ago.

By 1999, they formally split the business in two, with William running Grand Rental Station and Betsy running Betsy Ross Costumes.

Both businesses operated out of the location at 9670 Main St., across from Clarence High School.

Betsy Ross Costumes was known for its massive rental selection, everything from "The Wizard of Oz" to Marie Antoinette, from Bill Clinton masks to disco-friendly leisure suits.

Judy Ross said she stepped back from day-to-day management about 10 years ago, but she continued to do her daughter's bookkeeping. She said her daughter, now Betsy Visciano, began thinking about shifting to online-only operations about a year ago.

Visciano said changes in shopping habits led her to switch to sales, only, a few years ago and ultimately to close the Main Street shop. She said people don't want to shop in bricks-and-mortar stores anymore because the convenience of online shopping is too much of a lure.

She also said she was having a hard time keeping up with the store on her own, so she's glad to have the ability to work from home and in the warehouse when required.

Judy Ross said she decided to sell the building after her husband had health issues last spring.

"It was getting to be too much," Judy Ross said, noting the two apartment units in the building.

Bill Ross closed Grand Rental Station last November. Betsy Visciano closed the Main Street storefront in December and began leasing space in a warehouse in Lockport.

The sale to Swiatek Holdings LLC closed on Wednesday for $310,500, according to documents filed with the Erie County Clerk's Office.

Clayton Ertel, a real estate agent and vice chairman of the Clarence Industrial Development Agency, listed the property.

"We're excited, because I think this gentleman will renovate the building, make it more attractive and bring it up to today's standards," said Ertel, who has known the Rosses for years and went to high school with Charles.

Brett Swiatek, co-owner of Swiatek Studios with his sister, Stacey, confirmed he purchased the property with the intention of moving their company to 9670 Main St. from its current location at 1728 Seneca St.

The Swiateks' grandfather, Henry Swiatek Sr., founded the business as H. Swiatek & Son in 1967. The studio performs restoration work on original architectural features for churches, commercial properties and residential clients, specializing in stained glass, statues and ornamental painting. Clients include St. Mark's Church in Buffalo's Parkside neighborhood and Shea's Performing Arts Center.

The company has between 10 and 20 employees at any time, depending on the volume of work, Brett Swiatek said.

He said they plan to make extensive renovations to the building before moving there in the next few months. Swiatek said they will keep the apartments and his wife, Nicole, may move her physical therapy office into the building as well.

Brett Swiatek said the exposure that will come from a Main Street location and the ability to more easily serve clients in Rochester made the property attractive.

"We live in Clarence, so obviously the proximity to home was a bonus," he said.

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