A large barn in Twain Harte edged out Universal Studios in Los Angeles as the setting of a winter promotional campaign for Zappos, one of the leading online retailers.
A crew of 25 people flew from Las Vegas, where Zappos is based, for the photo shoot at Bennett Barn from Saturday through Tuesday that was scouted by set designer Carrie Moe, of Merced, whose husband grew up in Twain Harte.
“They wanted a German market in America, and the Bennett Barn is beautiful, so I scouted it out for them and showed them the pictures and they loved it,” said Moe, who has also done contract work for runway fashion shows and companies like the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott through her company Type A Society.
Moe’s husband, Torrey, said the crew had to haul in several tons of 300-pound blocks of ice that were processed through a large machine to create snow as part of the set.
There were also little shops intended to imitate a German market that were set up with the help of local volunteers from Calvary Chapel Sonora in Soulsbyville, including Torrey Moe’s father, Dr. Larry Moe, Bob Artzer, Brad Stratton, Mike Kagan and Mike Wiedemier.
The five men worked from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and donated their roughly $2,000 in combined pay to Adult and Teen Challenge Jamestown, a faith-based recovery program for people struggling with addiction.
Obadiah Rivera and Isaiah Porter, who live in the area, also helped work on the set.
Torrey Moe said they were aware of the Bennett Barn location because they had shot scenes there for a 2014 short film they worked on called “Her Name is Leah.”
The barn sits on a property with a log cabin that serves as the second home of Rod and Patty Bennett, of San Martin. They refer to the entire property as Deer Park.
Rod Bennett said he built the cabin himself in 2002 followed by the barn in 2010 as something to do for a hobby.
When Carrie Moe first called to get permission for the Zappos photoshoot, Rod Bennett said he wasn’t aware of the online shoe and clothing retailer that was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion.
“I was wondering how they were going to sell shoes out of my barn,” he joked. “I’m not really Internet savvy.”
Rod Bennett said the fact that his location was chosen over the company’s first pick of Universal Studios felt like “validation.”
When asked if there are any other plans for the property, Rod Bennett had something specific in mind.
“As dorky as it sounds, I want to host a Hallmark movie,” he said.
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4530.