Strictly Kids Resale Shop employees

The owner of Strictly Kids Resale Shop in downtown Gibson City — Jeanine Litwiller, front row, second from left — poses with the shop’s present and past employees during Saturday’s 25-year anniversary celebration, which featured a 25 percent storewide discount, 25-cent ice cream cones, pictures with the Easter bunny, hourly drawings, free face painting and giveaways of balloons to children and flowers to adults.

GIBSON CITY — When Jeanine Litwiller opened Strictly Kids Resale Shop in downtown Gibson City 25 years ago, she was a stay-at-home mom hoping to build a business that other mothers like herself could use to clothe their children with gently used, brand-name apparel at an affordable price.

At the time it opened on Eighth Street in 1994, the consignment-based children’s resale store was in rare company.

“Twenty-five years ago, consignment was not even known,” Litwiller said. “I had heard of it, but it wasn’t very popular. (The shop) was just a way I felt I could contribute to those who were like me, who wanted to buy nice things but didn’t have a lot of money to purchase brand-new (apparel for their kids).”

Since then, consignment shops have “definitely gained momentum,” Litwiller said, noting that “everyone knows what consignment is now, and there’s not a stigma with buying used like there maybe was 30 years ago.”

The popularity of Strictly Kids Resale Shop — which has been operated at its current location at 108 N. Sangamon Ave. since 1996 — was evident Saturday when crowds flocked to the store for its 25-year anniversary celebration, which featured a 25 percent storewide discount, 25-cent ice cream cones, pictures with the Easter bunny, hourly drawings, free face painting and giveaways of balloons to children and flowers to adults.

“A lot” of people had already come through the door in the first half-hour after the celebration began, Litwiller said.

Never did Litwiller, who lives south of Gibson City, expect to be in business this long and for her business to establish such a name for itself over more than two decades.

“I kind of thought, ‘I’ll get this started and if it doesn’t work, I’ll quit,’” Litwiller said.

Litwiller credited the community for her success.

“They’ve supported us very, very well,” Litwiller said. “Many of the children (who were clothed through the store in the 1990s) have grown up, and they’re now parents and I’m now serving their children. And I myself have clothed my kids through these 25 years, and now I’m clothing my grandchildren, as well. So it’s been a nice cycle.”

The consignment shop sells not just clothing for anyone from infants to young adults, but it also sells toys, infant accessories, shoes and books, among other items.

“When (people) bring things in (to be sold), we sell it for them and they get 40 percent of the selling price,” Litwiller said. “That money is then there for them to take at any time, or they can use it as credit in the store.”

The remainder of the funds help support the operation of the shop, which is staffed by Litwiller and eight part-time employees.

“There’s a sense of community with this,” Litwiller said. “It’s filling a need, I think, that the community has. A lot of people are on single incomes, so it’s just a way to clothe their kids in name brands. With schools these days, these kids are very conscious about name brands and some can’t afford them, so this kind of fills that need.”

Meanwhile, the shop also collects donations for the Living Alternatives Pregnancy Resource Center in Champaign and also donates some of its unsold clothing to the organization. The shop also donates clothing to the World Mission in Fairbury, which supports a ministry in Texas as well as organizations overseas.

Litwiller said she plans to continue to operate her shop “as long as we are able.” And when she eventually retires, she hopes “someone will be interested in taking over the business,” she said.

Litwiller said she greatly appreciates the community’s continued support.

“I want to say thank you to the community for continuing to support us,” she said, “and hopefully we can continue to serve their needs.”