The Victorian Era is alive and well in Mesa. So are zombies, rayguns and superheroes.
Evermore Nevermore is all that, and more. An eclectic clothing and collectibles shop with goth, geek and “steampunk” influences, it’s a surprising find on Mesa’s typically mainstream Main Street, sandwiched between Mystic Paper Queen’s Pizzeria and History By George.
Friday and Saturday the store will host “Steampunk Spectacular,” an exhibit featuring local artists and artisans whose creations mix the style of Victorian England with elements of sci-fi and fantasy. It coincides with the downtown community’s “2nd Fridays” event.
“From the get-go we’ve been into the whole steampunk thing,” said shopkeeper Bob Leeper, a longtime resident of east Mesa. “When we opened up the shop we knew we wanted to have it represented in the store.”
That’s evident from the atmospheric Daniel Langhans mural that covers an entire wall of the crowded showroom, depicting a gas mask-shrouded figure against a landscape of belching machinery, creeping cables and fantastic airships.
Leeper owns Evermore Nevermore with his wife Debbie and her daughter, Amanda Tucker. They opened the shop Oct. 1, followed by a grand-opening Halloween weekend bash. It was in the middle of a recession — scarier than any monster mash.
“It’s been an uphill battle,” Leeper admitted. “But things are starting to come together.”
About a year ago, he and Amanda were among the many Americans to be hit with layoffs. Leeper was let go from the automotive parts supplier TRW after a long career that began at the bottom and ended with him working in information technology. He quickly found a consulting position elsewhere, so the veteran U.S. Navy photographer used his severance as seed money to launch Evermore Nevermore, aided by his wife’s retail management and display design experience and stepdaughter’s sewing skills. Debbie also brings her experience as a school district payroll supervisor to the table.
“Overall she is the glue that holds our little shop and family together,” Leeper said.
It was a natural fit for the family, who had long been selling collectibles and original clothing online.
The owners were hoping to feature new comics in addition to a selection of back-issues in a location away from other comic sellers that dominate the East Valley, but the affordability of downtown Mesa was irresistible, and they loved the storefront they found there.
The store is making aggressive use of social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter to make itself known in the community, as well as participating in events like 2nd Fridays and downtown Mesa’s walking tour of reputedly haunted locations — of which Evermore Nevermore is one.
It also holds monthly craft workshops. “They are really fun events where our customers can mingle and create in a social setting,” Leeper said. The classes cost $10, and March 15’s event will involve making “mitten monsters” out of gloves. A recent workshop involved steampunk jewelry that will be displayed this weekend.
But walk-ins are still rare, with most traffic coming from people who already know the store is there.
Some who do wander in find the mix of collectible comics, political books and alternative women’s clothing too confusing. Snowbirds shun the place — except for Canadians, who Leeper says love its eclectic inventory.
Customers also love Evermore Nevermore’s local focus. All of the art — except for prints of pieces like famous comic book covers — is by local creators.
Wednesday afternoon, a woman who had visited the store before brought in her friend to admire the most expensive item Leeper has in stock: A model of a “steampunk” fantasy rifle with a price tag of $1,200.
“Is it local?” one of the women asked as he unlocked it from the display case to show it off.
Yes, it was.
Strange but true: The store can’t keep in stock enough books about Bigfoot. For some reason. An image from a famous 1960s film purported to show the legendary Pacific Northwest creature sits proudly framed on the counter, what Leeper affectionately calls a “family photo.”