When it comes to scary movies, sequels are a big part of the fun. So it’s no surprise that horror fans Erick Wessel and Kiko Bailey of The Bearded Lady boutique in Burbank have been slowly adding “sequels” to the retail experience they started almost 9 years ago – first with the Mystic Museum, then with an art exhibit space celebrating VHS schlock culture and now, with an all new store conjuring ’80s slasher and woodsy vibes called Camp Horror.
After being closed for the last year due to COVID-19, the owners say they survived by expanding their online merchandise stock. Loyal customers helped sustain them to the extent that just this month, they not only re-opened for in-person business, but also unveiled the new store at the corner of Magnolia Blvd. and Ontario St. For those of us who’ve been staying home diligently to flatten the curve and buying stuff online, the side by side shops provide the perfect three-in-one first foray back out to small biz browsing and shopping, especially for fans of dark decor, goth-y accessories and chilling tchotchkes.
Bailey says they “always wanted to expand” so when the space next door – a dog groomer – left, they seized the opportunity, taking the risk that post-COVID, things will go back to normal. “We don’t know how to stop,” she shares. “We just keep pushing forward and in the face of uncertainty, we just wanted to create something new for when the world did open back up.”
Though the horror/magic/gloom goods meld they feature is pretty niche, people who are into it are extremely passionate. “It’s been amazing to see everyone again now that we’re open and have something new,” Bailey adds.
“We’ve had such a great fanbase and friends that supported us and constantly shopped with us, so we didn’t take any time off during the closures,” concurs Wessel. “We actually worked harder, improving our online presence and pushing our brand. We also got involved with a lot of charities ”
Inspired by slasher movies, monsters and the nostalgia of going to summer camp, the new store is really an extension of the pair’s long-running, extremely successful art installations celebrating classic films like Evil Dead and fiendish figures such as Vampira. Moreover, their artshows capture the experience of going into an indie video store back in the ’80s and ’90s. We’re not talking about the Blockbuster stores of yore here, but the cooler mom and pop spots like Rocket Video and Mondo Video in L.A., where the clerks curated rare, weird and subversive titles you couldn’t find elsewhere. Younger patrons won’t know these refs or have the same perspective on the installation that older folks will, but the success of these exhibits proved that retro horror aesthetics still had universal appeal.
The current exhibit, “Slashback Video: The Beginning” – which was cut short by quarantine guidelines after debuting in Feb. 2020 – is in its third incarnation, and now offers a new narrative experience that takes visitors into the faux video store offices and rec room, and then allows for perusing of its amazing collection of video boxes and artist-created pieces that look like actual VHS tapes. It spills into the Mystic Museum portion of the space, featuring an array of vintage Ouija boards and so much more.
“We wanted to combine all things we’ve done so far – so it’s part retail, part immersive experience,” Wessel explains. “You can enjoy all of the things you’d enjoy in a museum while you are shopping.”
The main store features an array of magical and macabre merch, from books to jewelry to taxidermy to candles and incense. With Camp Horror as “part 3” of their spooky retail story, Wessel and Bailey are not only offering more cool stuff to buy (everything from monster pillows to t-shirts to toys), they are enhancing the interactive aspects of their business with rotating Instagram-ready photo ops and other frightful fun that that they hope will keep customers coming back for more and – just like Jason Voorhees – never, ever die.
The Bearded Lady Mystic Museum, Slashback Video and Camp Horror open daily noon- 7 p.m; tickets for museum & Slashback exhibit available on site. 3200 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank. (818) 433-7530. beardedladysmysticmuseum.com