Enchanted in Northern Liberties: How One Princess is Making Holidays Bright
By Laura Schwartz, Philadelphia Family, November 2020
From jewelry to princess brunches, this Philly pivot is worth a royal celebration.
If we told you in 2019 that a 21+ swim club would be descended upon by tiny princesses with facemasks, you would have a lot of questions. But like Queen Elsa herself, Aisha Maria Loeks knows how to make some real magic when all seems lost.
Loeks, the Northern Liberties jewelry maker behind Adorned by Aisha, had her business economically devastated by the pandemic, like so many other makers in Philly. She comes from a long line of artists, and with fond memories of her grandmother’s cameos she began to create her vintage inspired jewelry and accessories line. “When my grandmother passed away, I got all her costume jewelry,” said Loeks. “I cherished it so much and it became a big part of the inspiration for my own jewelry line. Everything has a vintage feel to it. Also, with my love of make-believe and fairytales, you can see that translate into the jewelry as well.”
That love of fairytales—plus a background in musical theater—also informed her side business, A Dash of Magic Events. The company specializes in bringing characters to parties and events, which also took a hit due to COVID. “I am so honored to be able to help make [kids’] dreams come true – and it’s all about bringing joy and light into their lives. During the COVID crisis, I wasn’t going to let that joy be taken away. It wasn’t a question of would I keep doing this, but instead was a question about how could I pivot and do it an entirely new way.”
Loeks adjusted in many ways, including creating COVID-friendly princess masks that matched each of her magical costumes, and adjusting rules around photos to maintain social distancing. She also continues to run her nonprofit branch and volunteers her time with free virtual storytimes for local nonprofits like the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. But our Elsa still needed an ice palace…or several igloos.
Meanwhile, Nothern Liberties’ Vesper Day Club and Pool—formerly an adults-only hotspot—had been making a pivot of its own in the midst of the pandemic. Transforming this past fall into an open-air steakhouse Germantown Garden Grill, it made changes and met the moment to expand outdoor dining and reimagine its space as colder months come. In October, igloos began to pop-up—along with heat lamps—to create safe, private outdoor dining experiences.
For the next few Saturdays—November 28, and December 5 and 12—it will feel as though Elsa conjured them up, as Loeks graces Germantown Garden Grill with her icy likeness. At two brunch timeslots per date, families can reserve 90 minutes at a private, exclusive and heated igloo (just for you and your immediate family members) and enjoy a safe and socially-distanced photo opportunity, songs, and grand entrance. Each reservation will also receive a private Snow Queen visit to each igloo, a souvenir, and Frozen themed activity sheets. Brunch is pay-as-you go.
While the event was originally only going to be two dates, conceived to coincide with Small Business Saturday and the Northern Liberties Pop-Up events, the idea proved so popular that a third was added before the first even happened! Loeks expanded the idea, and is now also planning a Christmas-themed brunch with Belle on December 18 and a very special New Year’s Eve experience with Cinderella—who better to countdown to midnight?
Be sure to snatch up tickets, since the events are open to a very limited number of tickets to make this dining experience very safe and intimate. Capacity for this event will be at less than 10 percent of the entire capacity for the venue, to ensure safety and health protocols. All children and adults above the age of two must wear a mask to and from their dining table. The Snow Queen already has her special custom-made mask, and she can’t wait to see your costumes and masks too! Costumes for the little ones are encouraged but not required.
Tickets are $15 per person for igloo seating and $10 per person for regular outdoor seating (without the igloo). A portion of each ticket will go to charity and provide a free princess appearance for children in need through the Salvation Army. All families attending must follow the local and health guidelines at the time of the event. If the event is postponed due to weather, all parties will be able to transfer their ticket to a new date and time. Germantown Garden Grill is located at 1029 Germantown Avenue.
You can also catch Loeks and her jewelry line Adorned by Aisha on Sundays, November 29 and December 6, outside 720 North 2nd Street as part of Northern Liberties Holiday Pop-up. This brand-new socially-distanced holiday shopping event will feature more than 15 small local businesses and makers from around Philly—those that don’t currently have a brick-and-mortar retail space and could use a home during the holidays and the pandemic. They’ll be popping up with gifts, decor, fashions, treats, and more in eight retail locations along N. 2nd Street, and Northern Liberties’ existing favorite retail shops will also be ready with gifts for all ages. For participating Holiday Pop-up Shop locations, look for the festive framed signs and posters. Social distancing and masks are required at all events.
Photographs courtesy of Aversa PR.