By Alice Renaud,
For a little kid, shopping on your own is just about the coolest thing ever. And what’s more, it’s a secret. Shhhh!
Every year at the Davis Art Center, a three day Holiday Sale is held over the first weekend in December. An unique part of this sale is the Secret Store, a special room in the back of the Art Center where kids ages 3-12 can go and shop for their families all by themselves.
Barbara Bales, head of the Secret Store, first became involved when she was new to Davis nine years ago. The head of the event asked her to help out and she’s been hooked ever since. “I was drawn to the [Secret] Store,” Bales said. “The smiles and happiness [the children] show is what makes this so much fun.”
Bales isn’t the only one who enjoys being at the store. The kids have lots of fun too. “They put a lot of thought into each gift and love explaining why they got each person that particular gift,” Bales said. She remembers a little boy who purchased a dog bowl for his grandmother. “She did not have a dog,” Bales said. “But he said ‘She loves dogs.’ Children’s minds are so wonderful.”
Even some DHS students remember the time when they were young enough to shop in the Secret Store. “I felt like Santa,” sophomore Eva Dicker said. She, like others, remembers the feeling of independence and maturity the store gave her.
Bales recalled a similar little girl who, when asked whether she would like to shop alone or with a helper, said “I feel like a woman,” and proceeded to shop on her own. “[That’s] my favorite story” Bales said.
As a little kid, it was never a secret what you had gotten for your parents. They always had to be with you to buy the presents in the first place. The Secret Store, however, has a strict “no parents” policy and volunteers wrap the presents for the kids; no chance for parents to peek! “I liked that it was secret,” sophomore Zoë Strachan-Payne said. “My parents wouldn’t know what I got them until Christmas Day.”
Dicker also remembers how her whole family attended this event. “My sister and I would always go [to the Secret Store] together. We always tried to figure out what we got each other,” Dicker said. “[We] always had to wait for my parents who were shopping in the art part of the sale.”
The “art part” of the sale is what takes place in the main room of the Art Center. Vendors and artists sell their wares and lots of waiting parents along with other community members can look around at the stuff for sale.
“It has become an important community event,” said Diana Coss, the head of the entire event. Coss began her work with the Art Center at age 17, as a junior at DHS, designing and selling jewelry. “I loved working at [the Sale] and came every year to sell,” Coss said. When she came back to Davis some years later with her family, she became re-inspired to help out. Soon after her return, she was approached to become the new head of the operation. “It was perfect timing!” Coss said.
Heidi Bekebrede is a regular vendor at the sale promoting her pottery business, Cuteware. “I have been involved with the Davis Art Center Holiday sale since the early 1990s, when it was a much smaller event,” Bekebrede said. It was a lot smaller then, but it has been going on for nearly 40 years.
The sale originated as a month long enterprise, selling crafts out of rented store fronts downtown. But in 1991, several women transformed the sale into a community enterprise which expanded over the years. The first Holiday Sale invited 54 vendors, earned a profit of $5,600 and 1,000 people attended over the three day period. In the last 20 years, it has grown to 70 vendors, $45,000 in profit, and more than 7,000 people attending during the one weekend.
In addition, more than 200 people volunteer at this event. “It’s been great to work with so many passionate volunteers who genuinely love to give back to their community!” Coss said.
This fundraiser helps to give scholarships and donate money for art events. 15 percent of the profits go to the center’s education and class funds. Families and others can come to the event, supporting the arts and having fun at the same time.
“It is more than an arts and crafts show,” Coss said. “It is labor of love.”