Evans, GA (WJBF)- The pandemic has wreaked havoc on small business all over the CSRA. Many have had to close their doors. However, one local business has not only survived, it has thrived.
Hannah Lewallen is the founder and owner of Wardrobe of Wishes – a princess and character performance company. The company gets most of its business from children’s birthday parties. When the pandemic hit she had to get creative to keep her business running.
Wardrobe of Wishes employs actors, singers and dancers from all over the CSRA to bring fairy tale magic to children in the area. Lewallen, only 24 years old, started at another company as a performer at age 18. While she was there she knew it was her dream to open her own character performance business.
“I saw another princess visit my nieces third birthday and I just fell in love with the idea of being able to celebrate little ones in a special way. And when I saw it, I knew it was meant for me. So I ended up reaching out and auditioning like a lot of my lovely friends do the same, and it was meant to be,” smiled Lewallen.
In June of 2017, Lewallen started Wardrobe of Wishes. She said her business was flourishing. Then, came the pandemic.
“Well it hit us like a ton of bricks at the very beginning. We didn’t know what to think. We decided we needed to keep the magic alive in some way. So we decided to start with virtual experiences. We did some social distancing events, such as princess parades,” Lewallen said.
Now they are able to do parties in person, but still follow all health safety guidelines.
“Such as social distancing. There are waivers that come into play. Of course we take checks for temperatures before they walk into the wardrobe. We make sure to take all of the necessary protocols,” added Lewallen.
Lewallen employs around thirty performers to play princesses, superheroes and even Villains. Some of the cast members are bilingual and they even have someone fluent in American Sign Language.
They recently added “Frog Princess” to their list of characters. Lewallen said they name their princesses generic names and that they do not claim to be Disney princesses.
She also said that all of their costumes are custom made. They are made to be able to adjust to any body type.
Kayla Wren is the newest employee, having been with the company for two months. She plays “Doc” a character based on Disney’s Doc McStuffins, and “Frog Princess” based on Princess Tiana. She said that bringing those characters alive for children who look like her is a dream come true.
“I would say that it’s very flattering and it’s honoring. And it also carries a lot of weight. It puts, not to say pressure, but it makes me think more of what I’m trying to represent, the role model that I’m trying to be. And if somebody were to see me and my character, that they would desire to be brought up that same way,” explained Wren.
Lewallen says that while they are glad to be able to do in person parties once again, they look forward to going back to normal.
Lewallen: “We’re hoping this COVID goes away so we can actually give those warm hugs once again.”