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After the Halloween rush, Hell’s Kitchen theatrical makeup company Alcone Cosmetics is breathing a sigh of relief as it prepares to celebrate 70 years of otherworldly looks.
The W49th Street store provides the cosmetic secrets for everything from Broadway’s boldest looks to television’s most recognizable characters — and has just finished powering thousands of people’s Halloween costumes.
“We have a very strong and loyal customer base — especially our Broadway, TV and film production teams, celebrity makeup artists and loyal, everyday people who’ve been coming here for years and years,” said makeup artist and staff member Will Sullivan. Alcone has had a long tenure between 8th and 9th Avenues —prior to staking out in Hell’s Kitchen, the brand operated out of a storefront in Chelsea. “We have some customers who have been coming here for the better part of 30, 40 years, and it’s also really exciting to have new people come in and to introduce them to our history and our really big catalog of products.”
All of that was on show when W42ST visited just before Halloween, with plenty of opportunity for people to shop for their most grotesque looks.
“One of my favorite questions that we get asked is: ‘Do you have fake blood?’ Because when my secondary response is, ‘What kind are you looking for?’ Minds get blown,” said Alcone’s retail manager Kenneth Llambelis in a recent interview with CBS New York. The modest-looking Hell’s Kitchen storefront belies a veritable multilevel wonderland of lipsticks, concealers, eyeshadows, glitter, prosthetics, wig accessories, fake dirt, and of course, dozens of fake blood products. They are regular suppliers of professional-grade products to New York’s film, TV and theater industry.
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Alcone’s fake blood and sweat-proofing products have been cited by makeup artists worldwide as the go-to for high-pressure makeup productions like Saturday Night Live — “they order a lot of bald caps from us,” said Llambelis — and as an industry standard for drag artists and Broadway babies alike, as evidenced by the store’s autograph-laden endorsement wall.
“Getting to work with someone like Joe Dulude, who originated the makeup design for Wicked was really exciting,” Llambelis told W42ST, adding that countless boldfaced names have recently graced the store, including fashion industry makeup artist Kabuki and Rupaul’s Drag Race winner Trixie Mattel.
“Its mission has always been to provide what people needed, when they couldn’t get it anywhere else,” co-owner Maria Stewart told CBS. Her family has been operating the business since 1952, “selling eyelashes and stage makeup to showgirls and starlets.”
Over the course of the better part of a century, the company has expanded not only to include award-winning special effects makeup, but also everyday beauty and skincare products for off-duty show-people and those who are a little less adventurous in their makeup tastes. As the company’s mission statement declares: “From beauty to bloody, Alcone Company has everything you need.”
“Alcone’s been a safe space for decades,” Sullivan told W42ST of the brand’s popularity among everyone from nightlife novices to seasoned drag artists. “We’ve been catering to people in a nightlife — drag performers and performers of all sorts for years,” they added. “I think one of the things that attracts a lot of artists to us, is that we’re a safe place to talk about all the things that they’re working on and things that they’re excited about — the ins and out of the industry,” added Llambelis. “I always joke that we sell makeup, but we’re also everyone’s best friends.”
The staff, all seasoned makeup artists themselves, regularly source new product recommendations from their customers, stress-test new products and even showcase the Alcone’s catalog in real-time, recently sporting terrifyingly realistic prosthetics around the store to celebrate the spooky season: “Halloween, as you can see, is our busiest season,” said Sullivan as customers flooded the store over the weekend in search of the perfect holiday look. The brand partnered with makeup artist Moises Ramirez to create a series of fun and funky makeup templates to help their customers recreate the likes of Elphaba, The Phantom of the Opera and Cats.
“One of the most magical things about working here is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a pro makeup artist or not — we make sure that everyone feels that they are experts when they leave the store,” Llambelis told W42ST. “One of my favorite things is anytime I get to teach someone who’s never done makeup before how to do a very complicated special effect technique for their Halloween costume, and they leave feeling super excited and knowledgeable about something they never thought they would.”
And as the store wraps its spooky season, they’re already looking to the next wave of popular purchases: “We’re a big stop for the Thanksgiving Day Parade Santas,” said Llambelis. “We’ll be selling a lot of temporary white hair coloring and facial hair!” Looks like there’s no place like Alcone for the holidays!