Black Business Month: Philly shop uses vintage, thrift to tell story of civil rights
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — As National Black Business Month comes to an end, Action News is profiling a local entrepreneur who is combining her love for vintage fashion with her passion for activism.
It’s the type of business that the African American Chamber of Commerce says creates real change in the community.
Blk Ivy Thrift is located at 3605 Lancaster Avenue in the Powelton Village neighborhood, which is full of history.
“This neighborhood that’s now Powelton Village was once an enclave for Black folk in this part of Philadelphia,” said Kimberly McGlonn, the creator and owner of Blk Ivy.
The business sells what could be considered pieces of history, like a decades-old two-piece ladies travel outfit that McGlonn showed off as she gave a tour of the store. But for McGlonn, vintage clothing is about so much more than style.
“I think it’s a beautiful expression of our values and our identity,” she said.
It’s why she is very intentional about what’s on the rack Blk Ivy, which features clothing for men and women, accessories, and items for the home.
“We wanted to tell a visual story of the civil rights movement through both vintage and through thrift,” said McGlonn.
Everything in the store is either curated from the years 1954 to 1972 or inspired by that time period.
“The time between Brown vs. the Board of Education and when Shirley Chislom runs for president as the first Black female candidate,” said McGlonn.
The fashions and the name of the store also have roots in the so-called Black Ivy style that drew its inspiration from a desire to interpret Ivy League fashion in a different way. It’s a meaningful business concept that doesn’t surprise African American Chamber President Regina Hairston.
“Most of our Black businesses are social entrepreneurs. They care about causes that are important to the Black community,” said Hairston.
But she says Philadelphia doesn’t have enough of “those businesses.”
“We have a low density of Black businesses,” said Hairston.
“In a city that is 43% Black and where less than 3% of businesses are owned by Black folks,” said McGlonn.
It’s why celebrating businesses like Blk Ivy is key and not just during Black Business Month.
“Black-owned businesses need us to pull up over and over again,” said McGlonn of the need for continued support by the community.
She hopes her nod to the past also inspires people in the present, and in her shop, it all starts with style.
“I think that if we can call people into activism through fashion, then it’s an opportunity that we should all be participating in,” she said.
Blk Ivy Thrift will continue its mission of combining the past and present by commemorating the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington. The shop will hold an event on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 3605 Lancaster Ave.
The celebration will feature live printing of special edition shirts and opportunities for conversation with McGlonn and other local Black entrepreneurs.