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Gilded Serpent presents...
Bellydance Community Floods
Costume Consignment Store with Love

by Evelyn Reece
New Years’ Eve
San Anselmo, CA

A new year brings new opportunities. My New Year came early and wearing the guise (or should I say costume?) of a disaster. Caravan Costumes and I were sitting pretty in our wonderful new location in downtown San Anselmo, California. Right on the lovely Creek Park side of trendy San Anselmo Avenue, the store is nestled next to a popular Thai restaurant. I’d been working hard all year to achieve the concept of a shop filled with Silk Road costumes and accessories (on consignment), so I was thrilled with my sudden good fortune.

Not only had I found an ideal location (established and with loads of foot traffic) but a location with a flexible landlord willing to rent on a short-term basis and willing to let me move in a week early--rent free!

The space was perfect too…racks already installed, a spacious dressing room, hardwood floors, vast display windows and the high ceilings ready-made for showcasing David Ludwig’s Silk Spirit veils. It seemed almost too good to be true.

Three new consignors joined the fold during set-up week and the store easily became a magical place. Rainbows of brilliant colors, sequins, beads and glitter sparkled in the sun through immaculate windows, and glamorous fringe danced as the door opened over and over as shoppers, curious, explored the town’s newest – and most exotic – store. The Goddesses were indeed smiling at the chance to bring dance, fantasy, fun and beauty to this quaint town, already known for great consignment shops.

The day before New Year’s Eve was a good one for the shop. Sales were strong and Aruna, from World Dance Fitness and Goddess Wear Boutique, along with a blithe spirit named Tahlula, had graced the store with their beauty and animated energy. Both women tried on a varied range of costumes; Egyptian bedlah, vintage hippy ensembles, exotic wear, fanciful wigs and a couple of stunning headpieces. We had a great time, and apparently so did others. Close neighbors later told me they even turned off their TV, preferring to peer through the window at the goings on at Caravan Costumes that night.

I willingly, even happily, stayed late that night to inventory new consignments and put finishing details on the shop. All was set for the grand opening, January 1, 2006. I was counting my blessings that lovely New Year’s Eve, filled with gratitude for the support of many friends and family. At 8:00, I locked the doors behind me, took one quick last look over my shoulder at the new venture and headed home.

Three hours later, about to put my feet up, the phone rang. Judy Laughter, a friend and dancer from Rising Stars, called with an offer to help “regardless of the time.” Help with what, I had to wonder until Judy repeated details of dire warnings about potential flooding that night, and was worried about Caravan Costumes as the store was in the very heart of the flood zone. At 2:00 a.m. I woke and, heeding an insistent ‘little voice’, got dressed and headed out to check on the store. It was raining, but not heavily yet. I saw only emergency vehicles out and about. As I parked I noticed that someone had been busy piling sandbags at every doorway. Without warning the town’s deafening alarm sounded, shattering the silence.

“What’s the situation?” I asked a passer-by.

“Emergency flood alarm … the creek’s only 2 feet from flooding”.

 “I’m going to get things up off the floor,” I answered, pointing to my dark and now vulnerable little shop that backed up onto the creek.

“I’d hurry if I were you,” he said, hurrying himself.

The next hour flew by as I packed garment bags and ran around folding items over the top of the racks so they were several feet above the floor. The mannequins’ filmy skirts were hiked up immodestly past their thighs. Everything on the floor was put atop a table or bench as I nervously kept an eye on the creek. I didn’t want to be caught inside when – not if – the creek crested. After doing everything I could think of, I forced myself to leave and drove home. Amazingly, I was able to sleep. Thank goodness for exhaustion.

The phone woke me. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news ….”

Downtown was hit hard by rushing water and mud and not one store, including Caravan Costumes, was spared. I raced down there with no idea of what awaited. Complete chaos was what I found. Even opening the door was difficult as the 5 foot planter stands had been pushed from the back of the store to the front blocking the front door. Thick sticky mud was everywhere and eventually all I could do was stand in the midst of it and cry. I was amazed at the extent of the water’s force – usually it was a small and pretty creek. Once the shock passed, however, I was so relieved to realize my efforts during the night had spared the vast majority of my inventory. My practical side kicked in again, and I knew I needed get the stock out of the ruined store as quickly as possible so that nothing else would be damaged from the damp and overwhelming muck.

I immediately called bellydance comrades, from friends to family. Judy, Starr, Helen, Crystal, Aruna, Athena, David, Linda, cousin Tom, sister Nancy and brother-in-law Bobby arrived hurriedly and pitched in. We had to get every single thing out of the store as quickly as possible. Amazingly, everyone seemed to know what to do and what they could best contribute. Nancy tapped a neighbor’s van, Tom brought an industrial fan, and Helen performed costume triage. Starr sorted jewelry and accessories and helped move everything from store to van to my apartment. Judy mopped and bagged and, along with Aruna, Linda, Athena, Nancy and Helen, carried armloads home to lovingly launder, rinse and repeat.

That night, New Year’s Day, I could only collapse in exhaustion in my sister’s apartment. But after a long, hot shower and cold glass of champagne, I felt almost revived, although bewildered, by the events of the past 24 hours. By 7:30 that night, Starr had magically transformed herself from mud-slinger to elegant party-goer. I was glad to see her when she came by to escort me to a friend’s party. Beth was hosting a small gathering to mark the end of one year and the beginning of a fresh one. Beth fed us comfort food (a wonderful lamb dinner), kept the champagne flowing and eventually tucked me up in the guest room for the night. We decided it would have been depressing for me to go home and face Caravan Costumes’ storefront in my living room!

With the dawning of a new day and a new year, even more dancers offered help and support. Stela, Lorry, Wendy, Sandy and Leslie joined the lovely rescuers. I am still overwhelmed by the love and unquestioning support of family and dance community. Reports were coming in from those who had taken costumes to clean – all of it great news. Nearly everything was turning out beautifully. In many instances the costumes and accessories looked better—cleaner and shinier – than ever.

And then the landlord checked in.

 “I am so sorry I talked you into moving in early,” he faltered. “I feel terribly guilty.”

In the spirit of new beginnings we simply agreed to start over again. He thinks the space will be repaired and ready by the first of February.  Although he’s had others approach him to rent my space, he’s preserving it for the new and improved Caravan Costumes.

“I want to see you in there going full guns,” he said encouragingly.  

It’s true, then, what they say about hope. It does spring eternal. Caravan Costumes is ready to try again. And with the encouragement of relations and dance family, I am planning to open around February 1, at the same location. 730 San Anselmo Avenue, next door to Orchid Thai.

It’s been such an incredible experience. I consider myself extremely fortunate and I am tremendously grateful for the love and support of my family and the resilient community of belly dancers.

Thank you, everyone, for collaborating with me and for your generous and heartfelt support. Please come by the Grand RE-Opening of my dream.

Ed: Evelyn's store reopens this Saturday, February 4th, 2006.

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