Today we are sharing a story that has inspired all three of us. We hope it does the same for you.
We have a small clothing boutique in our town called CC Belle. It's a fascinating place--jammed packed with what I call gypsy-style clothing and jewelry, numerous clocks all set to 5:04, a lot of chairs hanging on the walls, the colors red and purple, a dresser wearing a ribbon skirt, and so much more. How CC Belle came to be what she is today is quite the story, and I have the privilege of telling it today.
You could say that CC Belle was birthed at 3 a.m. on June 13, 2013, after a 57-day labor--much to the surprise of her owner, Amanda.
You see, Amanda had no intention of opening a clothing boutique--ever. She will be the first to tell you that fashionista would never have been a word used to describe her. She's a shorts and flip-flops kind of gal with a fondness for travel trailers and the beach. But in the early morning hours of June 13 when she hit the send button on her computer, finalizing an order for clothing that her sister, Crystal, would have loved, her life took a turn that landed her right smack in the middle of a very fast-moving business plan that established her as a boutique owner.
Profound grief after the sudden death of Crystal--her beautiful CC--on April 17, 2013, just 57 days earlier, had backed Amanda into a corner. Grief will do that to you. At that point, Amanda had two choices: succumb to the grief or come out swinging. Amanda came out swinging, propelled by her deep love for Crystal and a strong determination to preserve a legacy that had yet to totally be defined.
In Amanda's words, "Crystal had an unparalleled love for life in spite of the daily challenges her cerebral palsy and epilepsy created. Her strength and courage in the face of adversity have always made her such an inspiration to me and everyone else that had the honor of meeting her." Amanda knew she had to do something that would communicate the message of Crystal's life, so she ordered some clothing.
Why? Because Crystal was the family's fashionista. She had definite opinions about what she wore and when she wore it. Amanda feels that Crystal's love for clothing stemmed from her desire for people to notice something other than her disability. Just like many of us, she wanted to make a statement about who she was on the inside through her clothing. Who doesn't want to look pretty or interesting or sometimes, daring? Our clothing choices communicate a lot about us.
I love how Amanda describes a CC Belle:
A CC Belle is a gal with beauty that radiates from deep within her soul. She's feisty, fun, outgoing, a little quirky, courageous, and compassionate! She loves life and faces each day with a smile on her face. A gal like my sister, Crystal (CC).
When the clothing arrived, Amanda tagged onto a friend's home party and sold almost every item, giving her a renewed purpose and hope. Two years later, she is close to outgrowing her second store location and has even added a mobile store, Gertie. Gertie travels to events around the area and carries different brands than the storefront.
Amanda is not what you'd expect of a boutique owner. Sitting behind the check-out counter, she almost seems like a spectator at someone else's show, preferring to blend into the background. She's friendly but pensive--never forgetting what it cost her to get to this point. Always remembering her mission to honor the memory of her sister.
If you ask her what the key to her success has been, she'll tell you that the business built itself, and she is just along for the ride.
I would say that God, in His mercy and love, looked down at a brokenhearted sister and sent her a gift of hope wrapped up in some Crystal-style clothing. Amanda's hard work and love for people watered that gift, and it has grown into something beautiful for not just her, but for each and every one of her many customers.
While the significance of many items in the store may be lost on the visitors, they are not lost on Amanda and her family. The skirted dresser was Crystal's. The green butterfly that hangs on the wall represents the symbol of cerebral palsy. The use of the color red reminds them of Crystal's love of Elmo. And why 504? I am going to let Amanda tell you about that one. The following is an excerpt from a post on CC Belle's Facebook page that was written after the huge second-anniversary sale.
Being completely honest, I was ready to throw in the towel, walk away and never look back just a few hours in . . . until I looked at my phone and realized we were on transaction 504 for the day. 504 is a law that gives people with disabilities freedom . . . my sister passed away at 5:04 pm and received freedom from her crippled body. If you know anything about CC Belle, then you know that 504 is pretty significant in my life . . . You'll see it on Gertie by the door, it's on my old car's hood, tatted on my arm, important announcements are made at 5:04, redlines sometimes go $5.04, and it's hidden throughout the decor in CC Belle. I took it as a sign from my sister and kept on trucking.
While walking through Walmart recently, Amanda passed person after person wearing clothing from CC Belle's, and she was so overcome with emotion that she had to go to her car. Crystal's message is definitely out there, and it really has little to do with clothing or fashion. Crystal-inspired clothing is just the common ground that is uniting a community through one person's story. Wearing it reminds and inspires us to always be messengers of hope, to walk courageously, loving and living and dancing with utter abandon even through the storms--and to do so with smiles on our faces.