By Hazel Ford–
Seven years ago, Dawn Cornsilk never would have pictured herself running a costume shop. Far from a life dream, sewing was just a hobby — if that. Now the proud owner of the Costume Junction, one of the only costume rental services in the area, Cornsilk is excited about the future.
Opening two years ago at 8215 Auburn Blvd., near Aquarium Depot and Theatre in the Heights, the 1,350 square-foot shop is now bursting at the seams with costumes and regularly provides schools with historical outfits for plays, along with costumes for events and Halloween activities. An array of 1920s costumes are also popular among adults for themed parties, as well.
Cornsilk has many favorites among her ever-growing selection of costumes, which includes a Mary Poppins outfit and a vintage-pink beaded tulle dress, as well as men’s coats and tuxedo tails.
“For myself, if I wanted to dress up, I’ve always loved the 1800s,” she said during a Tuesday-evening interview. “I could dress up in long, fancy skirts and dresses, and big hats and gloves all day long.”
Rental prices range from head-to-toe children’s sets averaging $10 to $30, and complete adult sets ranging from $25 to $50. Cornsilk also encourages customers to mix-and-match, noting that with single-piece items renting as low as $5, a good costume could be created using odds-and-ends from a home closet paired with a few items from the shop.
How it all began
The idea for the Costume Junction first started in the spring of 2010, when elementary schools throughout Roseville began preparing for their third-grade field trip to the Bernhard History Museum in Auburn. Dawn, whose mother and sister both sewed, planned on borrowing her niece’s passed-down pioneer outfit for her daughter.
At the time, a friend was searching for a historical costume for her daughter, who was also in the third grade. The daughter’s birthday was coming up, and Cornsilk, who was on furlough from her state job at the time, decided to sew a pioneer dress for her as a present. The dress-making caught on, and with plenty of time on her hands, she began to make more.
“I thought, I can really whip these little dresses out, and I think if I sewed some — knowing that there are five classes of third-graders, that’s a lot of girls that will need dresses,” the chattery costume-shop owner recalled. “So I did, and essentially I never stopped sewing pioneer dresses for seven years.”
A business is born
A year after making her first dress for her daughter’s classmate, a friend from the elementary school approached her about renting costumes. Cornsilk was hesitant — taking on a costume business was a big step for a single mom with a full-time job. However, she ended up deciding to try renting costumes from her home, and the endeavor was a wild success.
Before long, she had compiled so much inventory that she began emailing neighboring schools, offering to rent costumes for their history programs. By the end of five years, her little home business had grown tremendously and was outgrowing her home’s storage capacity.
With a full-time job as an accountant with the State of California giving her little extra time, Cornsilk scheduled appointments with customers who met her at home after work. One day off, during the especially chaotic spring and summer months, she had to schedule 15-minute appointments back-to-back all day from eight to five.
The workload was becoming too much, and she began telling schools to wait as she finished orders from other elementary schools. People flooded to her, and she began having her sister record the back-to-back appointments for her.
Then, in Spring 2015, Dawn and her mother, Linda, visited an out-of-town costume shop that was selling off their inventory due to the owner retiring after 35 years in business. That trip left her inspired.
Opening a shop
“When I left from that woman’s house, after seeing her collection, I was just blown away,” she said. “Knowing how my little hobby business had grown, on the way home from that trip I said to my mom, ‘Mom, I hate my job. I really want to do something with this costume business, and I’d love to open a shop. I need some help — will you help me?’”
Her mom said yes. And that summer the two of them started looking for a location.
Originally hoping to rent in Roseville, the pair couldn’t find anything affordable. So they expanded their search and found an affordable location in Citrus Heights, about a mile from her mom’s home. The central Auburn Boulevard location was especially convenient, since Dawn’s mother faithfully opens the shop each day. “Sometimes it’s overwhelming for one person — I couldn’t have done it without her… She’s just a godsend,” said Dawn.
The next step was figuring out a name for the new shop — a story that Cornsilk was eager to share.
Finding a website name that wasn’t already taken was difficult, so she asked friends and family to brainstorm ideas. One of the names was “Costume Junction,” and since she lives off of Junction Boulevard in Roseville, she hoped the name would appeal to her original clients, who were used to visiting her home.
Since opening in October 2015, Cornsilk’s business has continued to grow. She’s also found the Citrus Heights location near Interstate 80 to be a central hub for serving her growing customer base in Placer and Sacramento counties.
“Not only does this location serve my other customers that I had established in Roseville and Rocklin… I’m hopefully becoming a great resource for the people in Citrus Heights,” she said.
With her 50th birthday celebrated earlier this year in July, Dawn reached early retirement age after 20 years of employment with her state job. Despite hopes to end her employment sooner, she plans to retire in January of the coming year. In the meantime, she is building her collection “like crazy,” making sure to stock both child-and-adult-sized costumes for all occasions, from holidays to themed parties.
With a booming business and bright plans ahead, Cornsilk is still buying from the retired 35-year costume-shop owner and is currently establishing wholesale accounts. If business continues to grow at the same pace, she predicts she’ll outgrow her current shop by the time her lease expires in 2018.
Despite her preference for renting out durable handmade items, she looks forward to expanding her rental business into retail sales and wholesale.
“I do think that I can expand my business by going into retail, once I get into a bigger spot,” she said, noting plans to include sales of makeup, wigs, and even novelties and gifts.
“That’s something that nobody’s done; it’s normally just retail or rental,” Cornsilk told the Sentinel, “So that’s the big vision.”
Costume Junction is open Monday-Friday from 3:30-7:30 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Additional information and a photo gallery can be found online at costumejct.com.
By Hazel Ford--
Seven years ago, Dawn Cornsilk never would have pictured herself running a costume shop. Far from a life dream, sewing was just a hobby -- if that. Now the proud owner of the Costume Junction, one of the only costume rental services in the area, Cornsilk is excited about the future.
Opening two years ago at 8215 Auburn Blvd., near Aquarium Depot and Theatre in the Heights, the 1,350 square-foot shop is bursting at the seams with costumes and regularly provides schools with historical outfits for plays, along with costumes for events and Halloween activities. An array of 1920s costumes are also popular among adults for themed parties, as well.
Cornsilk has many favorites among her ever-growing selection of costumes, which includes a Mary Poppins outfit and a vintage-pink beaded tulle dress, as well as men's coats and tuxedo tails...
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