As characters go, few are as full-blown as Chuck Costa. A native of Malta, he’s been in Detroit since 1951, with his paint store on Grand River housed in a sprawling building that dates to 1875. “Custer was fighting the Indians when this place was built,” he says with a grin. Described in a newspaper article as “the king of clutter,” he has an office packed with antiques and oddities — a replica of a suit of armor more than 11 feet tall, a slot machine, a toy Ferris wheel to name just a few; the walls are covered with signed photographs from celebrities such as Robert Goulet and Kenny Rogers to politicians of all stripes — Ronald Reagan, Hillary Clinton, Dennis Archer.
The Archer photos are particularly interesting, seeing as how Costa once ran against him. He also took on Coleman Young, and last ran against Kwame Kilpatrick. His latest project is an attempt to construct a $5 million memorial along the Detroit River commemorating the World Trade Center. In addition to a show of patriotism, Costa sees the effort as a way of creating much-needed jobs. Given his passion for economic development, it’s not surprising that he lists the Port of Detroit as one of the best things about his adopted city.
“This is a major international port,” he says. “Most people don’t have any idea how many ships go through here.” He’s right about the port’s economic impact. According to the most recent statistics, more than 17 million tons of cargo pass through the port annually.
Costa is a bingo fanatic, playing seven days a week. And his favorite place to play? “Windsor,” he smiles. “All the guards on both sides of the border know me.”