Rowan Richards, owner of the street apparel shop King Lizzy in the 2500 block of Division Street, finds solutions to poverty in the community by creating internships and jobs for underprivileged youth.
Richards was originally the executive director of the non-profit organization, The Stewards Market, which opened four years ago in Cabrini Green. He was looking for a building that would fit his goal—possibly a church, shop, or school to provide services.
Eventually the neighborhood was no longer an asset for Richards, and he started King Lizzy in November 2010.
“Cabrini was changing; a lot of the people were moving west and real estate became expensive,” Richards said. “A lot of folks and children were moving out west. A lot of the students were going to high school in Ukrainian Village and Humboldt Park. It just made sense that we head west.”
Richards was able to find a space for King Lizzy in the Humboldt Park community. The new space was a major convenience to Richards because it was close to Stewards Market, not far from downtown and is adjacent to other neighborhoods that benefit from King Lizzy.
Customers are welcomed by brightly colored graphic t-shirts hanging from the walls and the kind hospitality of King Lizzy’s young workers.
“From the very beginning we were able to employ even during the construction of the space,” Richards said. “So now we’re trying to do better and better in order to develop the place and take business further so we can employ more people.”
Sade Jenkins has been working at King Lizzy for eight months as an administrative assistant. Jenkins stumbled upon the shop walking with her boyfriend about a year ago.
“I was technically homeless before I had this job, so with me saving my money it got me a place to live,” Jenkins said. “I work here and my fiancé works here too. It’s great.”
Richards also expresses his consciousness in the community through the designs of the clothing at the shop. Jenkins’ favorite item is a white t-shirt that reads “I won’t be silent” in bold red font surrounding a close up black and white image of a mouth yelling.
Jenkins says it represents the power of youth.
“Every item of clothing has a type of meaning,” Jenkins said.
Alen Torres, who has been working at King Lizzy for two months, describes everyone a part of the shop as a family.
“I can come in and do my homework, assist customers and talk to my peers about my problems,” Torres said.