A large-scale company devoted to creating corporate mascots -- those outsized and sometimes outlandish characters intended to further a brand by instantly being recognized by the public -- is based in Columbus.
Wendy Goldstein, a resident of Columbus' Northland neighborhood, founded what would become Costume Specialists in the basement of her Whitehall home in 1981.
In the 37 years since those humble beginnings of creating custom costumes for theatrical productions, the firm has expanded into a major enterprise, with 45 employees occupying an early-20th century building at 211 N. Fifth St. in downtown Columbus.
"It's an amazing group of exceptionally talented people," said Goldstein, who also teaches the history of 20th-century fashion at Ohio State University.
"In the realm of things, we're not a huge company, but we're catering to some of the largest companies out there," said Greg Manger, who serves as vice president of operations.
Among the mascots now under the wings of Costume Specialists are several Sesame Street characters, the Michelin Man, Garfield, KeyBank's KeyToon and Crayola Tip, a crayon character.
"I'm always impressed when I see our stuff out anywhere," said Nikki Zupp, who works on the inflatables team at Costume Specialists. "I always say, 'I made that,' or, 'We made that.' It's always exciting when things come out that we weren't allowed to talk about and then you see them on the news."
Zupp, like her boss, is a Northland resident. She has been with the firm the past two years.
"It's a very creative workspace," she said. "Everyone has ... talent all over the place. We tell a lot of jokes, so we laugh a lot. Everyone has their own personality, which is a great thing.
"It's definitely not a sit-down-in-a-cubicle space."
Goldstein said her company does not have all its eggs in the mascot basket, foam or inflatable.
In addition to creating mascots, Costume Specialists personnel can handle scheduling appearances and making travel arrangements.
The company also offers cleaning and repair services, Goldstein said, something she said saved the company when the market for such branding characters declined.
Costume Specialists handles moves for up to 350 mascots and costumes a week, and 60 to 70 arrive weekly for repairs and upkeep, she said.
"We're particularly well known for getting the closest likeness to the character," Goldstein said of mascots created from existing corporate images.
"Somebody's got to make them," Manger said. "It's great that we can do it."