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“We were just opening our doors when everyone was told to shut down.’

wanda darden studio six two
Co-owners Shawn Wilson (left) and Wanda Darden (right) pose for portraits in their venue space, Studio SixTwo in June 2021. (Photo by Khysir Carter)

Wanda Darden

Co-owner at Studio Six Two, an events venue at 2424 Coral St. Suite CT4

Interviewed in June 2021

Editor’s note: The following responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

1. How were things for you and your business in the beginning of the pandemic? How would you compare the state of your business from then to now?

Well, that’s the thing. We started in February. So, in February, it was mostly planning and getting everything up and running. We had 30 days, basically, and then the whole city shut down. We were just on the verge of opening. We don’t really have a “before,” which has hindered us as far as getting the grants that were offered. We were just opening our doors when everyone was told to shut down. So, in essence, it’s been a year in the red at the beginning.

Now, there’s a sense of hope. We’re starting to collect clients, and people seem to be eager to get out. I think the whole vibe of the neighborhood and the city is that people want to invest back into everything that was closed down. So we’re feeling optimistic.

2. Can you describe how the City of Philadelphia has supported business owners throughout the pandemic? Have you felt supported by the city?

I’m actually in the LA21 program (Lancaster Avenue 21st Century Business Association) that is funded by the city. They have supported us in understanding how to succeed in business a little more. [They’ve] given us resources and coaches to help with the state of how things are. Not only that, it gives you comfort, to be in a group with other people who have gone through the whole pandemic. 

3. Can you share your experience with managing safety in your business throughout the pandemic? (mask mandates, capacity restrictions, social distancing, etc.)

For the most part, we were closed. We only rented our space out maybe a handful of times, and they were members of the same household. We didn’t advertise that we were open because we didn’t want to have to say no to people. It was mostly word of mouth. 

4. Can you share any moments in the last year where you faced a challenge that required you to find new ways to operate due to the pandemic?

We didn’t pivot as much as I would have liked. I did see a lot of people who came up with other ideas for using their space. Because we were so new, and the financing that we thought that we were going to make in those first couple months didn’t happen, it wasn’t something that we could do. So it was mostly a waiting game for us.

5. What is the best way for people to support your business?

From my perspective, I am very community-oriented. So I like the idea of having collaborators and friends in the Studio Six Two space. Because I believe that if someone knows you, even if they’re not renting the space, they may know someone who would like to rent the space. 

The best way for the community to support us is to come and see what we’re doing and see if there’s something that they want to do with us. We’re not opposed to someone having a grand idea that supports creators, but they don’t have the funding to rent the space. We can find other ways to circumvent that. We’re just looking for people to understand the vibe of Studio Six Two. We want it to be a creative space, first and foremost.

Editors: Khysir Carter, Jillian Bauer-Reese, Solmaira Valerio, Zari Tarazona / Designer: Henry Savage

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