Tucson’s Flashy Fashion HQ, Hydra, Celebrates 20 Years Downtown

November 5, 2014

Hydra, Tucson's home of flashy fashions, has been open 20 years this month.

Hydra, Tucson’s home of flashy fashions, has been open 20 years this month.

by Brad Poole

There have been a lot of changes Downtown over the past two decades, but some things haven’t changed.

Hotel Congress still holds watch over the Fourth Avenue underpass, the Rialto Theater is still entertaining crowds, and Hydra is still across the street from Chicago Store.

On Nov. 4, Hydra, Tucson’s go-to shop for rock star regalia, steampunk styles and and flashy wardrobe flair, celebrated 20 years in its familiar digs at the northwest corner of Congress and Sixth Avenue. That was basically the plan from the start, said Margo Susco, who opened the store alone but recently took on her brother, Joey, as a partner.

Roper authentic Western wear is a mainstay of Hydra's men's business.

Roper authentic Western wear is a mainstay of Hydra’s men’s business.

“It was a different world then, and many people didn’t want to come Downtown,” she said. Hydra lured them by offering things you can’t just walk into the mall and get.

At first, the store catered a bit more to the freaky crowd, so to speak. The styles they carried tended more toward vinyl and leather, and the shop offered piercings. They still sell vinyl pants and six-inch spike heels, but they stopped piercings years ago, and they now have a full line of authentic Roper brand Western clothes, vintage clothes (it’s a cowboy boot paradise), and 1940s and ‘50s reproduction dresses.

“Some people say, ‘Oh, you’re a bit more tame now,’ but it’s been 20 years, and we still maintain our edge,” said Margo.

Hydra, which celebrated 20 years in business Nov. 4, is still the place to shop for shoes that will get you noticed.

Hydra, which celebrated 20 years in business Nov. 4, is still the place to shop for shoes that will get you noticed.

“There are still a lot of musicians that come in, burlesque dancers, but you have to continually re-invent yourself and grow, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Susco graduated with a business degree from University of Arizona in 1988, then moved to Spain, Seattle and Los Angeles. She eventually came back here, and at age 29 opened the store. It was a hit from the start.

“The public really embraced us. They came out in droves, because there was nothing else like this at all,” Margo said.

She attributes a lot of her success to how Hydra treats people, both customers and employees. Perhaps the clearest statement about how Hydra treats employees is the fact that Susco has only had 10 employees in 20 years – and most of those left because they moved.

Hydra's specialty clothing includes a full line of 1940s and '50s reproduction dresses.

Hydra’s specialty clothing includes a full line of 1940s and ’50s reproduction dresses.

The sibling partnership emerged in 2012, when Joey closed his own Hydra store in Italy. He sold Hydra II in Rome and came back to open a Bisbee store, Margo said.

Having a partner has expanded the horizon for Hydra, allowing the Bisbee store and serious thought about one the Phoenix area, Margo said.

The shop has endured some hard times, to be sure. The banking crisis hit retail shops hard generally, and streetcar construction hit Tucson businesses specifically. But foresight helped Hydra “batten down the hatches.” Things are back on track, now. Margo is grateful for the chance to look ahead.

“I am very proud of where we’ve been, and where we are. I do know this – the world is our oyster. To position myself, after 20 years, to have a lot of options, I’m pretty lucky.”

Hydra in Tucson, 145 E. Congress, is open Mon-Sat, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sun, Noon-6 p.m. Hydra in Bisbee, 33 Subway Street, is open Tue-Thu, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Sun, Noon-4 p.m.

To learn more about Hydra, stop in or go to their website.

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