Friday, August 17, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Willie Powell, (center in pink), with Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins and other village officials during an Aug. 15 ribbon-cutting. | Shanel Romain
Granny B’s Treasure Chest, a thrift store at 207 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood, has been open for a year but the store’s owner, Willie Powell, held a ribbon-cutting for the establishment on Aug. 15. There’s a reason for what may appear to be the store’s delayed grand opening.
The event had been the brainchild of Powell’s late daughter, Kimberly Powell, who died last month and whose photo hangs on the wall of the quaint storefront.
“This was her baby,” Willie said of the grand opening. “Before she passed, she had been planning this. That’s why I got her picture on the flyers.”
Now that Willie has fulfilled her daughter’s dream, her focus goes back to what it’s been since she opened the thrift store — make money while providing a valuable community service.
Willie said that she decided to take on a thrift store after her daughter-in-law moved on from operating her own thrift store inside of a space next door.
The transition was just another challenge for Willie, who secured an associate’s degree in her late 60s, graduating beside her daughter Kim from Triton College. She then obtained a bachelor’s degree in applied behavior sciences and a master’s degree in urban ministry. In her 70s, she secured a doctorate degree in divinity.
Willie Powell working inside of her thrift store in Maywood. | Shanel Romain
“I always wanted to go back to school, but stuff kept happening,” Willie said. “I was raised on a farm in Mississippi. I worked and went to school when it rained.”
She came to Chicago in 1964. She has five children. She was married and divorced. Eventually, she became a single mother.
In addition to pursuing multiple degrees, Willie is also a licensed beautician who opened her own beauty salon and even obtained a teaching license that allowed her to substitute teach.
The thrift store, she said, has allowed her to return to a passion she cultivated while raising her children.
“I raised my kids out of the thrift store,” she said. “I discovered that I could buy better things used than new with the money I had.”
Moments after Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting, Patricia Scott, Willie’s longtime friend (the two share a grandson), browsed the store’s inventory before finding a hand bag for $1.50.
Not much at Granny B’s is more than $35, said owner Willie Powell. | Shanel Romain
“You can’t beat that can you?” said Scott, who lives in Maywood. “The prices are very reasonable and the stuff is nice.”
Nicole Keefer, Willie’s granddaughter and Kimberly’s niece, said that she regularly volunteers at the store when she isn’t teaching. For her, the store is an exercise in community.
“A lot of people who come in randomly and start talking,” Keefer said. “I’ve gotten to know the community a lot helping out here. You find out that it’s a small world and everybody know each other some type of way.”
“This is a service,” Willie said. “I want to offer nice things that people can afford. You can get a suit, hat and some shoes under $100. The most expensive thing I have is like $35. You can come here and step out dressed for Sunday morning as if you stepped out a fashion show.”
After all, Willie said, style isn’t about the cost of the clothes.
“Fashion is not a price tag, it’s a look,” she said. “It’s about you wearing clothes, not clothes wearing you.” VFP
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