Business

Small Business Spotlight: Coco Coquette Brings Joy to the Community One Wig at a Time

Heather Dawn outside of Coco Coquette.
Heather Dawn outside of Coco Coquette. Erika Righter
We all need to make some time to hang out and play make believe. Tucked away just around the corner from Voodoo Doughnut on Broadway, in the historic building that once held Famous Pizza, is a spot just for that: Coco Coquette.

If you find yourself needing to buy a wig, you might be tempted to just go online and hold your breath for what arrives. But you'd be missing out on a truly unique and fantastical experience found at Coco Coquette, where a wig means much more. We sat down with owner Heather Dawn to talk about her wig shop and the many reasons that people walk through her door.
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Erika Righter
Westword: Can you give us a quick description of the business?

Heather Dawn: We do wigs, makeup, all things sparkly, accessories, cosmetics. People are usually like, "What’s a wig party?" It's a private party booked by a group, and you will have the entire place to yourselves after hours. You can bring in food and drinks, we help you find a wig of your choice, and once you find your wig, we send you to the makeup magician. Everyone leaves looking really fly.

The main audience for our wig parties are people looking to gather for a birthday, bachelor party, bachelorette, girls'/boys' night out, divorce parties — people just looking to do something different with their friends. We also have people in more traditional, professional business sectors, like realtors, who will do a wig party for potential clients or client appreciation.

What is the story behind the name of your shop?

It is named after a french burlesque dancer; "coquette" means "flirtatious."

When and how did you get into this work?

It was 2016, and I was scheduling sister’s bachelorette in Austin, and came across this wig place. I knew I was at the end of my career in interior design, and I thought, there has got to be something more...as far as being in community, helping people show up authentically. I was in a sector where I wore a lot of masks, and I thought there has got to be more than having to constantly put on a mask. I left my job on the exact same day I started, seventeen years to the day!
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Coco Coquette owner Heather Dawn.
Erika Righter
So back to the bachelorette party: I thought this wig party business sounded fantastic, and I went into the party asking lots of questions and got the name of the owner. Came back to my job and had thirty seconds of insanity, emailed the owner, Alison, and asked her if she had ever thought about opening another location. She said, "I absolutely have, just don’t have the manpower to do it myself. If you’re interested in it, let’s chat." We talked for a year and a half and decided she would help me open this spot in Denver. She owns the Austin location, and we collaborate and have a lot of the same systems in place. We say we are "Sisters in Sparkle."

What makes Coco Coquette different?

We provide a different level of customer service — we are very hands-on with our customers, we care very deeply that they get to experience a childlike wonder to play dress-up, have a different hair style, present differently than what they are currently presenting with. People get to not only try on wigs, but show up and be authentic and have fun with our help.
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A wall of wigs inside Coco Coquette.
Erika Righter
Describe the values of the business.

We strive to be a safer, more inclusive space that shows beaucoup love to the most marginalized person who walks in the door. We can provide a lot of privacy; we have people looking for transformational makeup, presenting as assigned male at birth and they want to see what it’s like to have feminine makeup, put on a wig, have a transformation. For our people who come to us, it is very important to us that they are seen, that we can be a support system. And for many, coming out of the pandemic, maybe they’ve never done this before, or maybe only in private, or all the time, and just want to find a wig and do their makeup.

We want them to feel appreciated. We can do a private session, before or after shop hours. Screens can be set up to block what’s going on in the makeup area. I want to make sure they feel comfortable, they get to know us, have conversations in a relaxed atmosphere, and if someone comes in, I can control the environment. My biggest concern is the person getting services done. We are accepting of all people.

Do you have folks coming in who are going through chemo or hair loss?

We do! People come in with all types of conditions, and the wig room is set up so they can close the curtains and have privacy, and we cater it to their comfort. Most of the people coming in are not looking for something natural, so a lot of times people will say, if i’m gonna be bald and wear a wig, I want to do something fun like a rainbow wig! And then, of course, we have those who are not looking to stand out; we are inclusive of that range.

What are some of the challenges of having a small business in Denver that most folks don’t know about?

That it’s very expensive to exist in Denver. We pay a lot of taxes, no matter how small our business is, and we don’t get any breaks. I didn't get any relief because I don’t have employees. Because of our location, we do have a population of people who are unsheltered...and because the city doesn't provide enough sanitation or public restrooms and services, it falls on us, the business owners, to do a lot of cleanup. That is sometimes very taxing on our time, energy and health, when it should be a priority of a lot more people with a lot more power.
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Erika Righter
What is a small business achievement you’re really proud of?

That I survived through a major pandemic! Our business is so in-person, and requires contact. It was really touch-and-go.

Why should people support small businesses?

Because small businesses offer a different level of customer service. It gives me joy to offer the services we offer, to have my own experiences that I get to have rather than just a dollar sign and bottom line. Small business brings a sense of community, and we all learned a huge lesson during the shutdown that there is a community out there that wants my services, that want to come in here, and support it and be involved.

What is your favorite wig in the shop right now?

It's definitely a custom one that I did that is a Marie Antoinette, big curly thing with butterflies and ribbon at the end of the braid. It gives me joy to create something over-the-top, that brings so many people joy. I love doing custom wigs, taking something different, adding things to it. Coming from design and having an art degree, the creativeness gives me an outlet, and I also do custom masks and headpieces. I love having a really odd craft project, something so weird and outlandish, that sparks joy and is a conservation piece.
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Owner Heather Dawn created this Marie Antoinette-inspired custom wig.
Erika Righter
What are some of your favorite small businesses to support in Denver?

I love anything on South Broadway, especially Femme Fatale Intimates and Awakening, Bardo, Metropolis and  La Loteria. Any other small business that has made it through the pandemic. The struggle is real — there are so many.

How does being a mom impact you as a business owner?

I have two children over eighteen, and three dogs who are like toddlers. I opened this business when my daughter was fifteen, and I don’t know if it would have been easier if they were younger,  but I think that gave me a little more flexibility. I got to show them working doesn’t have to be the traditional way, like when they were younger [and] I worked astronomical hours — I was always working. I think I set a very good example that there is more than one way of having a job and a life.

Where do most customers find you?

Word of mouth, or Googling "wigs." People tag us all the time on Instagram when people come for parties, and then someone saw their friend’s party, or a drag queen saw their post. I am not the type of person to do a post every day, so it helps so much when people post pictures and tag us and tell others about us. My partner is a DJ and tags us and posts a lot, and that's her community, and I appreciate it.
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Halloween-inspired wigs.
Erika Righter
Coco Coquette
11 East Bayaud Avenue
coco-coquette-denver.myshopify.com
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