49 Voices: Starla Heim of Anchorage

This week we’re hearing Starla Heim in Anchorage. Heim is the owner of Dooley’s Tuxedo’s and Costumes. She inherited the company from her mother, and after almost 50 years of business, Dooley’s will be closing its doors the day after Halloween.

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Starla Heim of Anchorage (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media - Anchorage)
Starla Heim of Anchorage (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

HEIM: My mom was a stay-at-home mom and so the thought of her going to work just killed me, so I went to work with her every day. And I had a lot of different aspirations with what we could do with the business and we went many different ways, but leaving never was a thought for me. I just always wanted to be part of this, part of the business and part of what she created.

I have so many people that come in. And they’ll say, “The people in Alaska are so amazing. The people in Alaska treat you well.” That’s just a thing my mom always used to say to our customers. She’d say, “I don’t know how the weather’s going to treat you, but I know the people will treat you good.” That’s cause we’re just a different breed up here, a real breed.

I’m not a fan of the sun and I’m not a fan of the heat at all. I love to go to tropical places for the relaxation part of it, but I always stay indoors or in the air conditioning. I mean I’m not gonna complain. When we get sun up here, it’s nice. Don’t get me wrong. But I stay inside.

Our Fur Rendezvous in February is nothing like what it was when I was growing up as a child. These guys are all saying, “It’s 20 degrees out we don’t wanna watch the dog sled races.” Whereas my mom and dad would be like, “It’s 20 below. Bundle up, we’re going to the dog sled races.” There was no question. That’s kinda the difference between then and now. That’s just something you did. You bundled up and you dealt with the snow. You embraced it.

We get calls all the time saying, “This is a strange request.” And I just kinda laugh and think, “there’s no strange request around here. We’re a costume shop.”

They’re never gonna really be weather-proof. For kids, you just have to buy them big. It’s funny because you’ve got the parents that will buy them to go over the snowsuits and then you’ve got the parents that make them wear their costumes over their snowsuits. It’s back and forth. We definitely… that’s something we think about, size-wise.

Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org

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