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By Mike Hazlip–
Empty cubbies once full of all kinds of shoes, a counter top with a few remaining glittering accessories, and costumes hanging on the last few clothing racks sat among the dull cardboard of moving boxes on Friday afternoon at a once-popular costume shop in Citrus Heights.
Dawn Cornsilk, owner of Costume Junction, pulled up the only available chair on Friday to talk about closing her doors after income dried up as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown.
Cornsilk’s shop supplied clothing and accessories for school programs, plays, and photography sessions. The normal spring peak season for her business, with school field trips and living history events where participants wear costumes, didn’t happen this year.
“There are museums where it’s really kinda like a day in the life of the pioneer or the Gold Rush period,” Cornsilk said. “So the kids all dress up in pioneer wear… [or] George Washington, Martha, Benjamin Franklin.”
Those events were all canceled due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, which Cornsilk said left her without income to pay the monthly rent at her small retail location.
Theatre in the Heights, a small performing arts theater located in the same shopping plaza as Cornsilk’s costume shop, also has been struggling — with an unknown date for reopening. It’s been surviving partially on donations from fans to help pay rent, according to posts on the theatre’s social media page.
In an effort to continue operations, Cornsilk applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance through the state’s Employment Development Department (EDD). She said her claim was initially denied, however, when the form called for “total income” to be listed without a spot for entering deductions for expenses.
She later learned small business owners should enter net income, and corrected the mistake through an appeal. While Cornsilk’s appeal was successful, it was too little too late for the struggling shop, she said.
“Those questions for certification aren’t really meant for a self-employed person,” Cornsilk said of the application. “It’s really hard to get them (EDD) on the phone with millions of people trying to get through.”
Cornsilk looked into other types of assistance, but said they were geared to help larger businesses with payroll, and “really didn’t work” for a sole proprietor like herself.
The loss of income, along with a personal tragedy last year, was too much for the small shop, and Cornsilk was forced to close the doors of Costume Junction.
The lease on her retail space ends June 30, and Cornsilk is in the process of clearing out her shop, but hopes to continue her business online.
“A lot of people are changing the way that they shop, including costuming, because the online shopping is so prevalent,” she said.
“I can do that online,” Cornsilk said, referring to selling her costumes online. “That’s going to open up my market, and I can do that from my own home.”
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