West Philly store owner strives for change and empowerment

By Thomas Ryan
February 13, 2023

A photo of a light skin black woman with long black curly hair. she is wearing a dark green beanie and a dark green overcoat with a beige sweatsuit underneath. she is standing in front of her store next to a chalkboard sign that says Grant Boulevard.
Founder of Grant BLVD, Kimberly McGlonn. Photo by Thomas Ryan

At her West Philly boutique Grant Blvd, owner Kimberly McGlonn hires formerly incarcerated people, donates a portion of proceeds to nonprofit organizations, and recycles and repurposes materials in the spirit of sustainability.

The mission McGlonn and the Grant Blvd team hope to fulfill is promoting equality in both gender and race, and promoting responsibility in consumption and production.

Growing up in a leafy part of Milwaukee on Grant Boulevard, McGlonn always felt enveloped in nature. As she grew older, she really began to understand the negative impact that the actions of humans have on our world. In McGlonn’s words, “The story of this company has always been, how do I use my time and my talents to show up for the things that deserve my time and my talent? And for me, that’s been the planet and the oppressed.”

The Grant Blvd. origin story

McGlonn explained she wasn’t much interested in fashion as a young child, but the interest grew as she did. Now that she is older and has more wisdom, she uses her passion for the earth, female and Black empowerment, and fashion to leave her mark on the world.

Photo of a light skin black woman wearing a dark green beanine and a dark green overcoat on top of a beige sweatsuit setting down napkins on a counter
McGlonn setting up her store. Photo by Tommy Ryan.

“Grant Blvd is an expression of how I saw my being able to alleviate some poverty by creating jobs and to raise people’s consciousness about another way forward regarding our planet’s finite resources,” McGlonn added.

This shop offers many different styles of clothing and even household items, all sustainably sourced, that advertise the importance of our role as humans and the impact we as humans have on the earth. McGlonn’s constant reiteration of the empowerment of women, specifically Black women, inspired her to open another store nearby the original location where she will showcase vinyls of Black musical artists as well as books written by predominately Black authors.

Being one of the only woman-owned Black businesses left open in the remote area of West Philly and Philadelphia in general, McGlonn believed it was her responsibility to give the other female black-owned business another chance.

The politics of fashion

Photo of a light skin black woman wearing a dark green beanine and a dark green overcoat on top of a beige sweatsuit
Kimberly McGlonn. Photo by Tommy Ryan.

Kimberly McGlonn invited those other women business owners into her space and gave them a chance to revamp their businesses by having pop-up shops. The sense of community McGlonn built within her store and the opportunity she has given to people in the Black community, especially women, to embrace their culture and the chance for empowerment has been nothing short of positive.

The pieces of clothing range from an $8 face mask to a $300 jacket. McGlonn justifies this price point by telling the story of the impact these clothes have on society and the underlying message she is trying to send to her customers about sustainability and female empowerment.

“We can, through our dollars, change everything. When we decide to shop a Black woman, we can make sure that business communities and innovation are diverse. We can make sure that streetscapes across cities have what they need, making sure brick and mortars are open, and that is about purchasing power,” McGlonn said.

“Nothing speaks louder to other people than the sound of the dollar,” she added.

New beginnings

According to an article in PhillyMag, On Feb. 11, 2023, McGlonn is set to expand her business to a new store called “Blk Ivy.” This store will feature a thrifty vibe and will be decorated by vinyls by Black artists and books by predominately Black authors. The time period of focus is going to be Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and Shirley Chisholm’s run for president in 1972.

Via a post on Grant Blvd’s Instagram, Blk Ivy is described as “a thrift store that combines cultural artifacts and community engagement.”

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Thomas Ryan

My name is Thomas Ryan, I am a senior from Abington, Pennsylvania, pursuing a degree in Digital Communication. My role in the Loquitor is visual editor. I love all things photography and taking photos for the Loquitor. I have done freelance work in my free time for the past year and a half. I have worked with several photographers and agencies to create content for websites and many clients. As of late I have been focusing my skills on sports photography and updating my portfolio every chance I get.

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