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Cheap Thrills costume shop to reopen

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Longtime Midtown costume shop Cheap Thrills will be reopened this month by its original owner, Linda McNally, with help from her grandson, his wife and former employees who have become like family.

McNally’s grandson, Todd Gockley, and his wife, Sondra, said the family hopes to reopen the store at 1712 L St. July 16 – about three months after its then-owner, "Uncle" Fred Smith, closed the business in May so he could retire.

McNally’s father was a Sacramento tailor. She’s a costume and vintage clothing collector who opened the shop with costumes and formalwear in about 1969. McNally operated it for at least 25 years before Smith, an employee, bought the business in the mid-1990s.

Cheap Thrills operated at two other locations just a few blocks away over its 42-year history.

Gockley grew up in the historic Victorian house at 1217 21st St., where the shop was located most of that time. The Gockleys said they decided they wanted to reopen Cheap Thrills as soon as they heard it was closing.

"We couldn’t let it just go away," Sondra Gockley said.

Cheap Thrills rents costumes and buys, sells and trades vintage clothing from the 1900s through the 1980s and resale clothing through the present. Costumes rent for $25 to about $140.

The couple, which also operates a sexier sister shop called Prevues – A Fashion Fetish at 2417 K St., is overseeing the reopening and expansion of the shop.

Two former employees have come back to help. Leendah Muñoz worked for McNally at the original Cheap Thrills for 25 years. Noelle Castro said she started working for Smith in 1998 or 1999 at Zoots Tux & Suits Etc., which he opened a few doors down from Cheap Thrills at 1209 21st St. Smith later moved Cheap Thrills there.

A lot of "blood, sweat and tears" and even a couple of twisted ankles have gone into the reopening, according to Castro and the Gockleys. The space was recently vacated by the vintage clothing store Bows & Arrows.

They’re currently filling out custom-made racks with inventory, Todd Gockley said.

McNally always owned the theatrical costume inventory, which was rented to Smith. The inventory includes thousands of costumes and accessories.

Cheap Thrills carries authentic flappers’ costumes, Southern belle dresses, gangster and Zoot suits, disco wear and outfits for mascots ranging from chickens to gorillas.

The Gockleys and their staff can create costumes from any period or place, from medieval to extraterrestrial, as well as traditional horror figures and zombies, Castro said.

"You can do zombie pirates. You can zombie anything out," she said.

They’re bringing back more goth costumes, a huge corset collection and new inventory such as steampunk costumes, which the Gockleys and Castro described as a futuristic cross between Victorian and Wild West with ray guns thrown in.

They also plan to display museum-quality pieces, such as steel corset cages that have sold on eBay for $5,000 and Victorian silk dresses, Todd Gockley said.

The inventory is catalogued in their heads – primarily Castro’s, who worked at Cheap Thrills until Smith closed the store.

The Gockleys and their employees dress up every day for the entire month of October, until Halloween. They all help piece together costumes that customers are looking for.

Hours will be 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The family wanted to reopen the store in a space that’s much more open and with more storage. The Gockleys said they want the new store to capture some of the character of its original location in a purple Victorian with orange, red and yellow accents.

The exterior storefront has been painted purple with orange and green trim. The interior floor, ceiling and walls have been painted in many bright colors as well. They’re adding five to six new dressing rooms.

"We wanted to start fresh," Todd Gockley said. "We’re making it newer but trying to keep the old feel."


Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt. 

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