By Nona Tepper
Growing up, Glenda Harris said she always had an eye for design, but she dreamed of going into business. She earned a business degree in college and spent about 20 years working as a bill collector and in accounts receivable departments for various companies. Along the way, she designed specialty prom dresses for her daughters, helped decorate friends' houses in Oak Park and Chicago, and always got compliments for her clothes. She has designed for Charmaine Walker, an actress on the popular Black Ink TV series.
When her family shopped together, Harris would take pictures of the clothes she liked and then redesign pieces that better reflected her style. She would talk out her designs with her daughter, Precious, who would sketch her thoughts on paper and bring her ideas to life — Harris describes her style as trendy, with an emphasis on flair, multiple colors, checkerboards and more.
"I just like to blend things together and make it into something different, something unique," she said.
By the time she turned 35, Harris decided she was done with accounts receivable. Design was her calling. And she wanted to involve her daughters' artistic sensibilities too. Precious likes to draw but is also adept at fastening hair extensions and eyelashes, and Erica and her young daughter, whom everyone calls "Young Kynedi," recently launched a handbag business called K-Dazyre.
Harris started looking for places to open a store in March, working with a realtor to explore Oak Park and Forest Park. One day she was walking down Madison Street when she saw the empty storefront. She called the landlord herself and, by May, had a lease signed.
EPYK — named after her daughters Erica, Precious and granddaughter Young Kynedi — opened at 7446 W. Madison St. in July. After 35 years of dreaming, Harris opened her first boutique.
"We're happy to be in Forest Park and be part of the family in Forest Park," Harris said.
"[Customers] say they like the different style that's going on in here, which is a good thing, which makes me feel a lot more comfortable and cared about and looked at and noticeable," she added.
EPYK now carries purses, wigs, sunglasses and hair and lash extensions made from 100 percent human hair. Clothing-wise the business specializes in coats and dresses, many of which Harris designs herself and is planning to sell year-round. Jackets run from $49 to $329, and purses run from $25 to $99.
She said business "started slow but it's picking up," and she plans to open up the walls and create a fitting room in the coming months. Her son Evan painted a black, white and glitter abstract mural, which Harris designed, of course, on the most prominent wall in the store. She will also continue to design custom dresses for prom.
"I want to be able to design celebrities, design the neighborhood. Let everyone come in and just be comfortable and, you know, get to know me, speak to me," she said. "I ask them what do they like, so I can know what to bring in because everyone has different styles. I try to work with them and then if they want me to design things, I will design them."
EPYK is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday; and is closed Monday.