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First Person with Edwina Medearis of Medearis Costumes on Ryan St.
10/1/2019 1:00:00 PM

first person

photo by Shonda Manuel

There’s a certain joie de vivre that comes from doing what one loves; from living life with passion and purpose. Edwina Medearis exudes this positive mindset. She’s a busy, energetic, 73-year-old entrepreneur, registered nurse, and grandmother who has big plans for her future, none of which resemble slowing down or retiring. She opened Medearis Costumes, Gifts, and Balloons on Ryan St. 36 years ago. Ten years ago, she opened a second business, Tux Plus, next door to the costume shop. She’s also involved with an online card company called SendOutCards. Medearis has been a nurse for 46 years and currently works part-time as a psych nurse at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital and The Archer Institute. While she may be known around town as the costume lady, Medearis says nursing is her "first and foremost profession” because caring for people is her calling. Her dedication to this calling is evident in her commitment to the community of Lake Charles, her home for over four decades. 

Throughout her years here, Medearis has volunteered her time for numerous organizations, always striving to make Southwest Louisiana a better place to live. She’s been involved with the Lake Charles Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau since 1989, serving as Chairman of the Board for 14 years. She has served on the board of the Arts and Humanities Council and been involved with countless other community organizations, clubs, and krewes. She’s even dabbled in politics. She’s won numerous awards over the years, including the 1992 Gov. Edwin Edwards Louisiana Minority Business Person of the Year and McNeese State University’s 1993 Louisiana Business Woman of the Year. Medearis is a life-long learner and enjoys teaching others. And she’s active in three churches – Our Lady Queen of Heaven, Mount Calvery Baptist, and Unity Southeast Texas in Beaumont. Thrive magazine recently chatted with this fascinating go-getter, where she talked about her love of family, her drive to succeed, and the path that led her to where she is today.

Tell me about your background.

 I was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, attended a Catholic school, then North Texas State University. I got married and moved to New Mexico where we lived for eight years. Then my husband got transferred to Lake Charles in 1976. We had four children who attended Our Lady Queen of Heaven school and we were busy! I resumed my own education in 1977 at McNeese and got a degree in psychology and a teaching minor in biology.

My mother was a businessperson. She was a beautician and owned a beauty school. Later, she attended nursing school and became an RN and worked in psych facilities. She always encouraged me to go back to school and own my own business. My grandmother and an aunt were also businesswomen. I come from a family of strong, independent, entrepreneurial women.

How did you come into the costume business? 

I went to market with the intention of opening a card shop. At that time, it was hard to find cards, especially Mother’s Day cards, that looked like my mom. I knew that our community needed more Afro-centric cards available. Soon after, Hallmark cards evolved. They started a line called Mahogany and filled that empty niche. But I nonetheless opened my shop, Cards and Gifts. Some time later, again at market, I met a gentleman who had a manufacturing company and he said costumes were the way to go. So I added costumes to my shop and that ended up being my number one business. Later, I added balloons and we’ve done some wonderful decorating jobs for both private and corporate events, weddings, fundraisers, festivals, those types of things. 

What are your peak seasons in the costume business?

We’re really busy during Mardi Gras season. Pirate costumes are huge for Mardi Gras and during the Pirate Festival. And of course, Halloween. Superhero costumes are always best sellers. The holidays keep us busy with Santa suit rentals. And we rent a lot of Bunny costumes at Easter. We also do costume rentals for local theater groups. And we offer singing telegrams. The Stripping Gorilla has been at the top of our line for years!

Your nursing career, your businesses, and your family . . . how do you keep all these balls in the air? 

I’ve always been energetic. I’m a list maker to stay organized. I’ve taken classes on how to keep my life structured and positive. And I take good care of my health. We only have a certain amount of time that God has allotted us to do the things He wants us to do. We need to fill our time in as much as possible with positive things that will move us forward. 

What do you love most about your life right now?

 I’m excited about living. Period. I had a health concern five years ago. I went to M.D. Anderson and had that taken care of. As a nurse, I know how to encourage my patients to react to health challenges, but until I went through it myself, I wasn’t able to say I’ve been there and be able to help them from a personal standpoint. I said to God, "I really didn’t need to have this in order to get your message across, but whatever Your will.” I’m cancer-free now and that’s a good thing. I love that at my age, I can share wisdom and an excitement for living with other people. God has assigned me to be a nurse. And I also bring people happiness through my costume shop. 

What are your hobbies? 

I enjoy traveling, photography, yoga, and spending time with my four kiddos (Edwin, Christopher, Jeannette, and Rogerella) and seven grandkids.

Name three things most people don’t know about you. 

I’m a loner. My only sibling is nine years older than me, so I grew up spending a lot of time by myself. My mom named her beauty school after me in the 1950s. Edwina’s University of Beauty Culture in Fort Worth, Texas. And I love to dance. I participated in a weekly dance in Beaumont for several years at the Beaumont Swing Out Civic Club.

What’s next for Edwina Medearis? 

I want to learn how to do podcasts. I want to become a motivational and health-related speaker. And I want to present my thesis so I can complete my master’s degree in Adolescent Forensic Psychology at Prairie View A&M University.

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