Broom Mates

Broom Mates

To the question, “Why witches?,” Virginia Semeghini answers, “Why not?” Witch Bitch Thrift, a secondhand apparel and “witchy” supply shop downtown, was the brainchild of Semeghini, who says the name, reflective of her spiritual practices, came to her right along with the business idea. First conceived as an Instagram project during the fall of 2020, WBT developed into an online store with a devoted following. The business operated out of Semeghini’s apartment with the help of longtime friend Amanda Kelley before moving to an office space near their home in Bridgeport.

But customers were soon knocking on their door, despite the lack of a public-facing storefront. In early 2022, Kelley left the project and Semeghini’s life partner, Eva Ray, came on as co-owner. Determined to move their business to New Haven—“It was always very clear that New Haven was the place to be for us,” Semeghini told me; New Haven and WBT were “a big deal,” therefore a logical pair—they signed a lease at 105 Whitney Avenue last August, then worked 15-hour days to soft-open their new shop space in time for Halloween.

“October is our month,” Ray says, gesturing around at the year-round spooky decor. “Our time to shine.” The pair couldn’t contain their excitement about this October, the first since being fully established in their new city, ready to welcome trick-or-treaters and adult partiers alike not just for shopping but also a busy month of in-store events including costume and masquerade parties, a group session with a medium, a screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show and, this Friday, a haunted house.

Like Halloween itself, “We’re surprisingly family-friendly,” Semeghini says. “Everyone finds something.” Having something for everyone is, paradoxically, part of WBT’s unique vibe. “We wanted a curated experience with size inclusivity,” Ray says. She and Semeghini reminisce on being young, queer people who couldn’t find things that fit their bodies or their gender presentations and style, and how that difficulty affected their visions of themselves. That experience has influenced their business decisions and connected deeply with many of their customers. “People have a trust in us they might struggle to find elsewhere,” Semeghini says. “They want to know they’re being listened to, to be armed with more information so they can make the best decisions. We listen.”

They point to their sizing system, where each piece is measured and assigned a size on their in-house scale. This combats the arbitrariness and lack of standardization across brands and accounts for the effects of the clothes being secondhand. So does their collaboration with a local tailor who brands himself The Whipped Stitcher. Also going by Jack, he can customize clothes to suit customers, whether with a simple hem or dart or the addition of pockets. His services are more affordable than a traditional tailor, as well as being conveniently located: right inside the store most Fridays, starting at 1 p.m. Much of his work has been focused on gender-affirming fashion, a rare skill that gives customers in need a service they might not be able to access otherwise.

Semeghini recalls a young teenage girl barreling out of the dressing room. “She couldn’t stop smiling. ‘I feel so pretty, look at this dress, I feel so pretty.’ She gushed about never finding so many clothes in one place, never feeling so pretty. ‘I’ve never had options for my first day of school.’ When she left, we started crying because this was so not our experience as kids. We all have dressing room trauma, clothes shopping trauma… that kid is going forward so confident and happy, because we made this space for her.”

Witch Bitch Thrift
105 Whitney Ave, New Haven (map)
Sun & Tues-Thurs 11am-6pm, Fri-Sat 11am-7pm
(203) 553-5703

Written by Miki Cornwell. Photographed by Dan Mims. Image 1 features, from left, Eva Ray and Virginia Semeghini.

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