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Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

The Enchanted Cellar grows from Halloween auction to year-long business

From Halloween festivities and themed parties to theater productions and Dickens’ fairs, people from The Enchanted Cellar serve the Davis community and surrounding areas with over 25,000 stock items for rental year-round.

“Some people have a costume idea but think, ‘how in the world am I going to make the costume do that?’” said costume shop director Roxanne Femling. “That’s a challenge, but sometimes that’s the fun part for us too.”

The Enchanted Cellar, located in the basement of Wright Hall, offers a variety of clothing and accessories for rental. With the various events that occur on campus, in town and in Sacramento, Enchanted Cellar staff believe there is a student need for costumes.

“There are a lot of events that people go to or organize that they might need a costume for,” said Anel Zarate, a third-year design major and rentals assistant/stock agent at The Enchanted Cellar. “There are a lot of parties that people want to dress up for, even if it’s not Halloween.”

Originally started in 1999 under the name Halloween Costume Auction, the shop held auctions for three years before officially beginning to sell and rent to the UC Davis Theater and Dance Department in 2004.

The Enchanted Cellar name was coined in 2007, the same year that the shop opened its doors to students who were not affiliated with the theater department and to the public.

To encourage local visitors, the shop offers 50 percent off all sales and rentals to customers affiliated with the university.

Without that 50 percent off rate, one-week rentals through The Enchanted Cellar range from $75 to $150.

Although usually offering rentals only, The Enchanted Cellar held their second Decade Sale this year, with over 1,000 items on sale for the Halloween season.

“There are a lot of really cool things that people would find, like jackets, corsets and fairy wings,” Zarate said.

The Decade Sale, taking place every 10 years, allows the Theater and Dance Department to look through their inventory and pull out what they no longer use.

“The inventory of all our costumes has accumulated over time from shows we do and donations from the community,” Femling said. “Sometimes it grows too much, and then we have our decade sale. We haven’t used these items for ten years in the department, so they’ve had their chance.”

The Enchanted Cellar staff started pulling items together January of this year.

“With our costumes, you feel like you are in a more historical garment,” Femling said.

Femling said that customers vary greatly, from students to dance companies, and suggested that potential customers just come down to browse and have a good time, even if they don’t have a costume in mind.

“I want people to just come to look at what we have and have fun. Create some ideas, we are here to help with that too,” Femling said.

All of the costumes are made by students, according to Jason Moscato, a second-year dramatic art and linguistics double major and assistant company manager for the Department of Theater and Dance.

“All of the costumes that we make are really high quality, much higher quality than Halloween shops,” Moscato said. “You are supporting the students and getting a great product in return.”

The development of The Enchanted Cellar and its services has been a long process, with the project evolving every year in its presentation.

Last year, the Department of Theater and Dance put on The Haunt, a haunted house for students during the Halloween season, complete with a costume party after. The Enchanted Cellar made costumes for the event and offered costume rentals to party attendees.

“The Haunt was great, however attendance wasn’t as high as we expected, so the costume rental numbers were a little bit lower,” Moscato said. “Students were mostly focused on The Haunt instead of The Enchanted Cellar.”

This year, the department was able to publicize the shop on its own, without the pressure of scheduling a coordinated event alongside it.

“I think the publicity is a little more successful now because it’s more focused on the shop,” Moscato said. “Having The Enchanted Cellar publicized independently will allow students to see what a great resource it is.”

Increased publicity for this season allowed for greater student involvement. From building costumes and managing the shop to tabling on the Quad and dressing up for publicity photo shoots, The Enchanted Cellar offers students the opportunity to gain experience in several fields.

Depending on how many people are working and how intricate the project is, a costume can take from a week to a month to make. Femling said the most popular costumes for rental are Renaissance and period gowns, along with 1920s attire.

“Compared to other costume places, we have a lot more things that are legitimately from the period. They are actually made the way that they were made back then,” Zarate said. “We also have a lot of weird things that you wouldn’t find at a costume store, like horse heads.”

This year, because of increased demand, The Enchanted Cellar staff has and is working on more costumes from today’s pop culture scene, such as characters from Star Trek and Harry Potter.

Customers are also not limited to The Enchanted Cellar’s current stock.

“We can pull things together to try and make whatever they are envisioning,” Zarate said. “We can definitely help them try to create what they are looking for.”


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