- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) - In a Kenosha office filled with life-sized stormtroopers, Darth Vader masks and plasma blasters, Dana Gasser has turned his love for “Star Wars” and attention to detail into a booming business.

The 43-year-old ditched his corporate career seven years ago to create Anovos, a company that produces high-end, replica movie props and costumes for a growing worldwide market, the Kenosha News (http://bit.ly/1Vr3tVF ) reported.

Anovos, derived from the Latin word “novo” meaning new, is the only company licensed to sell costumes and props for “Star Wars,” ”Star Trek” and “Battlestar Galactica.”

“The worst day at this job is still better than the best day at corporate,” said Gasser, a 1991 Tremper High School graduate. “What started as a hobby turned into a passion.”

In a day when it’s never been cooler to be a geek, Anovos benefits from wildly popular comic conventions - such as last weekend’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo - where attendees have taken the phrase “dress to impress” to a new level.

The San Diego Comic Con International, which began as a comic book show in the 1970s, has become the largest convention in the world. Attended by thousands, the event features a range of pop culture and entertainment for nearly all genres.

Gasser remembers wearing a stormtrooper outfit about 15 years ago to a Chicago concert for “Star Wars” composer John Williams.

“Back then, it was kind of a closet thing,” Gasser said. “Everybody would think you’re weird. It was your love, and you didn’t care what anyone else thought. Soon there was a huge surge for it where it became more pop culture and more mainstream and more accepted.”

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Gasser watched “Star Wars” when he was 4 years old - his first trip to the movies - and instantly fell in love. He collected action figures and other memorabilia, but was left wanting more.

“As I got older, it became harder finding people legitimate enough to give good product,” said Gasser, who worked years for an electronics company based in California and Chicago. “I thought, ‘Someone needs to do this correctly.’ There were a lot of garage builders who took your money and you’d be happy to hear from them again.”

Each month, Gasser joined fellow costume and prop enthusiasts in Elgin, Ill., to share new items and ideas. It was there where he met Joe Salcedo, his current business partner and Anovos chief executive officer.

Salcedo and Gasser started the company in 2009 with a license to produce “Star Trek” props and costumes and soon added a “Battlestar Galactica” license.

The company announced its exclusive contract with Lucasfilm - to produce and distribute one-of-a-kind “Star Wars” merchandise - at the 2014 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.

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Anovos benefited with the 2015 arrival of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” taking orders on $550 Darth Vader helmets and $1,800 stormtrooper suits.

Jimmy Fallon, the host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” sported one of Anovos’ stormtrooper outfits as he performed a popular “Star Wars” a capella medley with his band The Roots and several of the movie’s cast members in December.

“He’s a real nice guy,” Gasser said about Fallon. “He was extremely humble and loved the outfit. He really took his time with us.”

Gasser recently returned from a three-week trip to Pinewood Studios, located just outside London, England, to gather information on the “Star Wars” Dec. 16 release of “Rogue One.”

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As head of the company’s research team, Gasser is also a regular at Lucasfilm, founded by George Lucas, and the Skywalker Ranch located outside San Francisco.

“We take a look at the assets so we can recreate them as best as possible,” Gasser said. “We take 3D images with incredible accuracy, spec out cloth pieces and scan patterns. Sometimes we can get the inside of a piece, and then it’s vacuum formed.”

While its “Star Wars” merchandise remains hot, Gasser said the company’s other licensed products are popular as well.

“We have a ‘Battlestar Galactica’ jacket that is one of our top sellers,” Gasser said. “We sold 50 at the cheapest price possible as an incentive for people to buy right away, and the price went up from there. You never know what is going to be popular.”

Gasser oversees a staff of approximately a dozen employees located all over the country.

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Information from: Kenosha News, http://www.kenoshanews.com

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