Lori and Jeff Lewis’ storefront at 6818 State Route 128 looks like the real-life manifestation of a wedding-themed Pinterest board. Succulents peek out of a miniature wooden cabinet embellished with wooden hearts, flowers in a weathered watering can provide a shock of color and multiple chalkboard signs sport terms like “Mr.” and “Mrs.” in jovial handwriting.
The married couple owns and operates two businesses out of the space: Hocus Focus Photo Booths, which supplies a variety of rentable photo booths, and Rustic Rentals, rustic items and antiques available for all sorts of events — everything from weddings and birthdays to graduations and family reunions. Hocus Focus was the couples’ first endeavor, established five-and-a-half years ago.
“Jeff had always wanted to start his own business,” Lori explains. “We went to a wedding, we saw a photo booth and he thought, ‘What a great idea. I think we could do it.’ He built our very first photobooth and we quickly added a second one.”
The original photo booth — the business’ most popular — is a lightweight standard booth that can fit up to eight people inside. Hocus Focus also rents out themed booths — a rustic décor booth, an open-air booth and one specifically for kids — in addition to what is perhaps their most unique offering: a mint-green camper appropriately named the Julep, which they initially found on Craigslist. “Of course it didn’t look like that,” Lori says, laughing. Jeff is currently in the midst of renovating camper No. 2.
“When we started looking for the second one, we realized that we got lucky the first time, because they’re really hard to find,” she continues. They eventually tracked one down in Frankfurt, Ohio — but because it had old tires on it, they had to drive the back way all the way home, Lori adds.
The Julep is air-conditioned and draws electricity from its own generator, meaning that it can be taken just about anywhere as long as the terrain is accessible and the venue allows it. Its interior, complete with a bench and thoughtful decorations, draws inspiration from the ’50s — the camera is even situated inside a vintage television set. It’s a vibe the couple knows a thing or two about, stemming from their own rustic wedding three years ago.
“Lori wanted to have a rustic wedding,” Jeff says. “We got a few things — we bought a lemonade stand and some other stuff — and we had that at our wedding. Then we thought, well, we’re already in the wedding business.”
“It literally started with three or four items — a cute little cart, the lemonade stand, an antique peanut cart — in a storage unit,” Lori adds.
Then, the owners of the building next door to their current storefront offered to share their space. They moved into their present building about two years ago; it’s a historic structure built in 1845 that formerly housed Miami Savings and Loan before the bank moved across the street. Its old bank vault now contains a treasure trove of baskets, jars, vases, wood and other crafting materials.
Rustic Rentals offers products ranging from the aforementioned carts to worktable displays, vintage buffet tables and rustic doors, popularly placed at the end of a wedding aisle for the bride and groom to walk through, as well as all sorts of decorations like candle holders, decorative vases and personalized chalkboards. Customers can hire the Lewises to provide a full wedding setup or opt to have them deliver select items to their event.
The only other employees of Hocus Focus and Rustic Rentals are people the Lewises know, the majority of which are family members. Lori works with her mother and sister to set items up while Jeff “provides the muscle,” arranging products and setups.
The storefront is open by appointment for customers to browse products and select which ones they would like to incorporate.
“I’m not a wedding planner, because I don’t want to be there to tell everyone, ‘You’re here and you’re here,’ ” Lori says. “I just want to go in and decorate it and then we leave.
“It’s really hard because I don’t even care about decorating my own house anymore,” she continues. “When I go out looking for something, everything I do is wedding in my mind.”
Some of the items, like the lemonade cart, are from the Lewises’ own wedding ceremony. Others are purchased from brides or discovered at local antique shops.
“I love antiques,” Lori says. “I’ve met a lot of antique dealers that are now friends, and when they get things they know I would like, they’ll send me pictures.” Most of the time though, she just happens upon something she loves, or — if she’s “on a mission” — she’ll “see something on Pinterest and think, ‘I’m going to find something exactly like that.’ ”
Although weddings do comprise the majority of business, both Hocus Focus and Rustic Rentals are available for any type of occasion. One of Lori’s favorites is called Witches’ Night Out, a Halloween-themed fundraiser held in conjunction with the Caring Closet, a nonprofit serving underprivileged children in Hamilton City Schools. Held at local bars, women of all (drinking) ages dress up as witches for the event — a perfect photo-op made all the better by the Julep, which the Lewises provided last year complete with Halloween decorations and Zombie baby dolls for props.
Lori also planned last year’s Miamitown Christmas Walk, Miamitown, Ohio’s annual holiday festival, which ended up being the most widely attended to date.
“The photo booths are so social,” Lori says. “We get to meet and talk to so many people. I love hearing them cracking up laughing inside the booth and peeking to see what they are doing.
“I get emails and calls all the time from people asking if I can replace the photo strip for them from an event because it got ruined,” she continues. “It’s nice that people love those photos so much.”
To learn more about HOCUS FOCUS PHOTO BOOTHS and RUSTIC RENTALS or to set up an appointment, visit hocusfocusphotobooths.com.