Harry, 2, in his cape. Courtesy photo


Just how far can a Pip & Bean Custom Superhero Cape travel from its workshop in Bloomington?

Try all 50 states in the U.S.A. and 23 other countries, spanning six continents in all.

Alyssa and Brian Wolfe are the cape’s creators, Etsy shop owners of Pip & Bean, and parents to Charlotte (Bean), 8; Penelope (Pip), 6; and Harry, 2.

It’s fitting the capes are named after their daughters. The idea came about when Alyssa had trouble finding capes for their girls, who loved playing dress-up. “There wasn’t much out there for girls, and they weren’t into superheroes such as Batman and Superman,” she says.

Then, soon after they moved from Cincinnati to Bloomington in 2009 for Brian’s graduate work at Indiana University Kelley School of Business, they needed a birthday present for a little boy. However, living off Brian’s graduate assistantship did not afford store-bought gifts. “I thought, ‘I’ll just make the kid a cape,’” remembers Alyssa, who has a bachelor’s degree in theater. “It was ugly, but the boy loved it and all the kids wanted to wear it, and then all these parents were asking about it.”

Alyssa perfected her craft and later sold 30 capes in less than three hours at the annual Tri Kappa craft fair. “It occurred to me that this was a way to supplement Brian’s income while still being able to stay home with the kids.” She opened up shop on the e-commerce site Etsy, featuring handmade personalized capes with initials and lightning bolts. Bloomington’s baby boutique, The Green Nursery, also began selling the capes.

For the 2010 holiday season, Pip & Bean ran a Cyber Monday special that resulted in a demand for 330 capes in one week. “When our entire house was covered with capes, that’s when I realized I had to manage this better,” Alyssa says. As a result, she hires eight or nine employees to help during the peak season from August to December.

More than 9,500 capes have been sold on Etsy since November 2009, including one to actress Charlize Theron for her son, Jackson. “I’m still shocked at how many are out there,” Alyssa says. “Without Bloomington, and the support we received, it wouldn’t have happened.”