Grant BLVD: A Black-owned boutique in West Philly tackling criminal justice
The West Philly clothing boutique was a recipient of a $10,000 BeyGood grant amid the COVID-19 shutdown.
Kimberly McGlonn, owner of Grant Blvd, was born and raised on the North side of Milwaukee, W.I., but has family ties to Philadelphia.
“I am a granddaughter and a daughter of Philadelphia. My grandmother is from South Philly and my mom grew up there,” McGlonn said in a recent interview with AL DÍA News.
McGlonn, who holds a Ph.D in design from Louisiana State University, came to Philly for a teaching job at Lower Moreland High School, but then became interested in opening up her own business with the goal of hiring people who were formerly incarcerated.
She said that the Netflix documentary, 13th, by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, was the inspiration to focus her energy on tackling the injustices of the criminal system.
13th is a damning examination of the U.S. prison system.
“The problem with our incarcenal system is that it keeps people locked out,” said McGlonn.
After watching the documentary, McGlonn contemplated how she could offer jobs to marginalized people, and decided to focus on fashion.
She continued her research into the industry, and learned more about sustainable fashion, which would become the main focus of her business that opened online in 2017.
Grant Blvd takes already-existent garments and reimagines them to make something beautiful and new.
“We call it the remix, that is our take on kind of what like Myles Davis did for Jazz and what Diddy did for hip-hop,” she said.
McGlonn and her staff play with various materials and textiles that create sensible and comfortable clothing.
With her online space thriving, McGlonn decided to also open a storefront to give her customers the opportunity to see her creations in-person, and so they can touch and try on the unique clothing.
Right after McGlonn opened her storefront on 3605 Lancaster Ave. in West Philly, the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, shifting the lives of countless small business owners.
“When the pandemic first hit, we just moved into it, we could not open it,” she said. “That was a challenge, having a space that we were responsible for, but were not able to open.”
Despite the rough challenges her business experienced, she did receive a $10,000 scholarship from pop-icon, Beyonce.
The BeyGood grant was given out to Black small business owners to help deal with the economic crash that followed the pandemic.
But McGlonn never had to close down and in fact, she hired more employees to expand business.
Many of her clothing is lightweight, breezy, and gender-neutral that represent a sense of peace and calm that is much needed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We make a lot of what people would call, women’s wear, and we're really intentional about making a lot of pieces gender neutral,” she said.
Her beautiful and visually-appealing garments can be purchased online or in-store.
Check out Grant Blvd in West Philly this weekend!