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Cancer Patients Gain Self-Esteem from Wig Boutique

Wig-A-Do has lasted four decades outfitting women with wigs and other hairpiece attachments.

When someone is undergoing chemotherapy treatments, seeing piles of hair on the bathroom floor can almost be as unsettling as the cancer. 

For more than 43 years, the experts at Wig-A-Do in the Moorestown Mall have been dedicating their time to the fitting and styling of wigs for women, with nearly 80 percent of their clients suffering from cancer or other medical-related illnesses like alopecia.

The boutique, located next to Chipotle Mexican Grill, offers a personal shopping experience with trained hairstylists, like Maureen Mullen, who has been an employee since the store opened. 

“Every woman who comes in should feel magnificent when they leave,” says Mullen, 62.

Wigs today are much more natural-looking, lighter, and easier to take care of than the wigs of yesteryear, says Rob Levin, the second-generation owner of the store. “And they come in so many styles and colors to suit a woman’s personal look.”

Rob and his wife Jamie Levin, who live in Feasterville, PA, have another store in Levittown, PA, which they bought from Rob’s father Morton in December 2010. And the couple will be opening a store in a few weeks inside the Cancer Treatment Center of America in the Juniata section of Philadelphia. Cancer patients will be able to order a wig before their treatments start, avoiding the strain of losing their hair as their treatments progress. 

Wig-A-Do has also teamed with Deb Kimless-Garber and her organization, Red Thread, a clothing line offering bra shapers and bras for cancer survivors. 

Morton Levin wanted to be a dentist while growing up in Philadelphia, but his parents couldn’t afford schooling. For whatever reason, Rob says his dad, who died last October, then chose to become a hairdresser. 

After his training, he got a job in a wig shop. In 1964, he opened his flagship store in Trenton, at a time when more women wore wigs as part of their daily wardrobe. 

“I remember a story my father used to tell. Back in 1969, he put one style of wig on sale for $18.88, and in one day he sold 300,” says Rob, 52.

In addition to the Moorestown and Levittown stores, Morton also had two other wig shops in Philadelphia that he ran for decades.

Rob says not only do clients with health issues patronize their store, but many of their customers buy wigs to wear on a regular basis. Others seem to like the ease of having a wig on a vacation. The store also has its share of cross-dressers purchasing wigs and other hair attachments.

Back in the day, stars like Cher and Dolly Parton popularized the wig culture, wearing falls and hairpieces as part of their costume changes. Today, younger celebrities wear extensions, bangs and ponytail add-ons, all found on the store’s shelves and racks.

Wigs are constructed in two different ways: The first way is by attaching the hair strands onto a sort of fringe called wefting; others have a monofilament top that, when the hair parts, looks like a natural scalp. 

“Hairs made from nylon are easy to maintain. You can pretty much wash and wear them,” says Jamie, 48, and are generally more affordable, ranging from $175 to $495.

Human hair from Asia or Europe is woven and used for natural hair wigs, which can endure coloring and styling with blow dryers and flat irons. 

As the construction crews have torn away the former movie theater, and as corporate heavies like the Gap close its doors, Rob says, he’ll ride out the changes at the shopping center, and plans on keeping his Wig-A-Do store right where it is.

“Unless the mall’s owners decide to move us again,” he adds. “We’ve been in three other locations since opening here all those years ago.”

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