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Tustin Just in the St. Nick of Time : For 7th Year in Row, City Will Be Renting Out Santa Suits

November 20, 1987|DANA PARSONS | Times Staff Writer

'Tis approaching the season to be jolly around Tustin, which will be renting out Santa suits for the seventh straight year.

The outfits--complete with suit, beard, belt and fake boots--rent for $7 an hour, $20 overnight and $35 for weekends. Last year, 15-20 people rented the suits, generating about $450 for the city, recreation supervisor Eileen Harter said.

The city got into the rental suit business because of requests from the public, Harter said.

"It's actually quite a headache, to be honest," she said. "We get suits coming in and out, bright and early in the morning, when half our people aren't even awake yet. A lot of times we have to call the person who rented and say they forgot to bring the suit back, and we have another person coming in in 10 minutes. Administratively, it works, but it's not the easiest thing to control. But it's worth the trouble, because we know people like to use them."

At least one Orange County costume shop owner isn't thrilled with the city's program.

"I'm totally against city government delving into private business, competing with me," said Tom Johnston, owner of Style Leader in Orange. "If they want to buy the suits and donate them to worthy organizations, that's a different situation, but to rent for profit, I'm against that."

Johnston acknowledged that the issue isn't of major importance to him, but said the city's rental price is competitive with his. "The next thing is, why not Halloween costumes and Easter bunnies? The basic point is, does government go into business? If they want to provide a service to people, that's different."

Harter said the city doesn't consider itself competing with private companies but is, in effect, handling their overflow business. And because the revenue generated is so paltry, she said, the rental program amounts to "providing a service."

Charles Schulte, owner of the Olympic Productions costume shop in Anaheim, agreed: "The people the city rents to couldn't afford to rent it from me, anyway. We rent starting at $50, $65 and $80. If the city wants to rent to grammar schools and little churches, I think it's great."

Schulte said that "city government has always been in private business. That's what they do. They dig their own ditches, put up their own power lines. Every business in the city is in competition with city government. There's no getting away from that."

Harter advised anyone interested in renting a suit to do it early, because the city has just four suits. Registrations can be handled by mail, by phone or at City Hall, 300 Centennial Way. The phone number is 544-8890, extension 220.

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