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James Calleja was pissed.
He and a good friend had just been thrown out of a wig shop in Warren “where a couple angry Asian ladies” refused them service. Calleja says they waved their fingers in his face and said, “We don’t carry wigs for fags.”
After the ladies threatened to call the police, the men angrily gave up and headed back toward Calleja’s Ferndale home. “We were mad about it the whole way home, and when we drove up Woodward I saw these empty buildings and I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to open a store of my own just so we don’t have to put up with people like that!'”
The next day he called to see the building, and started planning his own resale fashion shop. He was determined to create a store where anyone of any size, shape, gender or orientation could feel comfortable buying clothes, shoes, makeup, wigs and other fashion necessities.
His store, Queens Dreams, is Ferndale’s newest gay-friendly, gay-owned business, which sells mainly female fashions to a diverse and open clientele. The store opened in mid-March, but launched with a grand opening on April 1 to showcase their array of new and used women’s fashions, wigs, shoes, purses and some traditional men’s clothes. So far the clientele has been a 50/50 mix of women and “queens,” including famous local performers D’Angela “Show” Shannon, April Summers and Tori Lynn, whose pictures grace the store’s walls.
To help out those who may not have experience showing off their feminine side, Queens Dreams offers consulting sessions with drag queen expert stylists, hairstylists and performance tutors – all available by appointment. A make-up session with Tori Lynn is available starting at $25, and seamstress Aaron can also help make adjustments to clothes that don’t quite fit right.
“D’Angela ‘Show’ Shannon has been doing this for 15-20 years, and April Summers has been doing drag for 30 years,” he says. “You don’t want fashion advice from me.”
The chipper shopkeeper describes himself as a laid-back guy who wears jeans and T-shirts most of the time. Before opening Queens Dreams, Calleja worked as a district manager for a fast-food chain. He currently also tends bar at Menjo’s – “so when the girls show up at the bar in my clothes I can tell them ‘I know who you are,'” he says, winking and laughing.
To raise money for Higher Ground and their efforts to help children with AIDS, Calleja will hold a “Turnabout Show” at the Detroit bar, which is why they were looking for girly garb in the first place.
“Basically, it’s a bunch of guys getting drunk and making idiots of our selves to raise money for the kids,” Calleja says. He does the shopping for a lot of the boys because they are either too busy tending bar or too upset by people’s reactions to men trying on women’s clothes.
The shows are held quarterly, and Calleja is relieved he was able to get the doors open and a nice mix of fashions in time for the next show, which will be held at Menjo’s at around midnight on April 30. It’s $5 to get in and there will be $3 well drinks and $3 domestic beers. The last performance featured a dozen queens-for-the-night, including Calleja in a long, brown wig and a bright orange, bell-bottomed two-piece while he imitated Cher.
“Most people said it would be really hard to open my own shop,” he says.
He sure showed them.