Weird, Wicked and Overly Caffeinated
After she graduated from Tom Savini’s Special Make-up Effects Program, Christalee Lema knew exactly what she wanted to do next.
“Right out of the gate, I knew I wanted to work at ScareHouse,” says Lema. “That was the only place. When I was 12 or 13, I had gone for the first time, and it blew my mind.”
So starting in 2013, Lema fulfilled her dream and ended up doing more than makeup, diversifying her skills to include set construction, donning a character costume or two from time to time, and even judging Zombie contests!
“Whatever they need! They like to use me for all my different skill sets, which is really fun. Sometimes I’ll be blacking out walls for the haunt, sometimes I’m doing makeup.”
Even though ScareHouse keeps her busy, Lema is always moving with multiple business endeavors. First, there’s her makeup business, where she’s worked on TV projects like Mayor of Kingstown as well as professional headshots and bridal services. But in addition to makeup, she also has a spooky coffee business!
“I formed Eeeek! in 2020. My retirement goal was to open a spooky coffee shop. Working in TV and film, we have 12- and 15-plus hour days, and even in my early 20s, I was like, this is not going to work for me. I was exhausted and getting burned out.”
The retirement plan was to own an actual physical coffee shop, something the self-proclaimed “nerd” started putting together as a business plan in 2018. She started roasting beans and learning the tricks of the trade, and when the world shut down during COVID, she took her plan and rerouted it. Today, while she doesn’t have a physical brick-and-mortar shop, she sells her spooky coffee online as well as at events all over the city.
“I have two main roasts: a medium roast which is Frankie (Frankenstein) and a dark roast which is The BRIDE. I will always have those in stock. But I also have vanilla that’s a vampire, a Mummy ‘Mourning’ blend, a mocha, a Southern pecan, and a Final Girl hazelnut. We have a few more in the works, but those are the ones that are out.”
She works with a roaster to figure out the flavor profiles and what tastes best.
“I knew if I was going to sell something that 500 million other people are going to sell, I’m going to do it my way, and it’s the spooky way! Buyers of my coffee include artists and people who love the spooky realm but also coffee lovers.”
Spooky and coffee lovers can try Eeeek! coffee at Drop Dead Crafty, an event Lema hosts at ScareHouse’s sister location, Bold Escape Rooms, at 2420 Penn Avenue in the Strip District. The next one is Sunday, September 10 from 12PM to 4PM.
“It’s a horror-themed pop-up market! I will be the first vendor you see handing you coffee samples. As you walk through, there are jewelry makers, photographers, and fine artists. A little bit of everything! We have themed rooms which I really love. I always try to find artists or vendors who are really going to pop and showcase their art. I scour Instagram for the artists that I want.”
Lema says the first event was really successful, even though it was supposed to be just a test run, and that she’s excited to support local artists and creators like herself.
“We had a line before we opened! I said, ‘Is this for us?’ They were like, ‘Yes!’”
This just proves there’s a demand for the macabre year-round, even if the fall certainly gets everyone in the spirit of the season!
“You get to dress up and be whatever you want. It’s the time of year when it’s not unusual to be a little weird, so let your weird out! I think [this time of year] allows people to just be themselves.”