Many small businesses have been deemed non-essential during the current COVID-19/Coronavirus Pandemic. Along with photography businesses, like my own, retail businesses, like Strictly Kids, a youth resale clothing store in Gibson City, Illinois, has had to close their doors. With the recent announcement that shelter-in-place will be extended to May 30, many self-employed business owners have had to get creative to bring in money. Even though the changes in restrictions did bring relief to photographers, retail businesses, such as Strictly Kids will now be able to sell their goods online and offer curbside pickup. This has brought tremendous relief to store-owner Jeanine Litwiler.

In an effort to help small businesses during this time, I will be highlighting various locally-owned Central Illinois small businesses in the coming weeks.

Recently, I asked Strictly Kid’s owner Jeanine to discuss her shop, COVID-19, small-town living, and more. On a personal note, I have shopped at Strictly kids since my oldest son was a baby (so about 15 years). The clothes are always top quality, the staff is forever friendly, and the SALES are awsome!

Q. How many people does Strictly Kids employ?

Currently, I have 6 part-time employees. That number has fluctuated over the years from 3 of us to 10 of us at one time.

Q. How long have you been in business?

This is my 26th year in business and we’ve been in our current location since 1996.

Q. What inspired you to start Strictly Kids?

I always loved retail and wanted to start my own business part-time and Trev (my son) came with me in the beginning. I wanted to provide nice children’s clothing at a reasonable price for those of us ( me ) who couldn’t afford always buying new . 26 years ago was before resale was fashionable a lot of people didn’t know what resale/consignment was at that time.

As the business grew I could employ moms like me with kids and give them flexible hours and then summers off and employ high schoolers – my daughter Nicole worked here throughout high school and into college.

Q. How is your business changing because of COVID-19/shelter in place?

The business, it’s employees and customers have become like family to me. Through the years I have had many people come to work with me and many have stayed! Through COVID-19 I have realized how much I took for granted!! I miss the customer and employee/friends interaction!!!

I never saw it coming that I would have to close my doors and it has made me more determined to keep the doors open and be stronger than ever when we can open back up!

Through the changes in all the years, the internet has been the biggest. Selling online was something I thought I should do but didn’t have the time to put in place. I have had that time now and it’s going well. It will be something we continue even after we open the doors. It’s something this generation is learning to shop online! We have tried to fulfill customer’s needs via personal shopping and curbside delivery. Our business is deemed “non-essential “ but I bet if you would ask mothers of growing children they might tell you differently!

Q. What does family/small-town living mean to you?

Family is the most important thing to me! I started my store with hours so that I could attend their events etc through the years we have added hours for the convenience of shoppers. I have clothed my kids through the years and now my grandkids!! Our small town is impressive and I love that we rally together during times of celebration and times of trial…this being a time of trial!!

You can find Stricly Kids on Facebook, shop their store online, or in-person (once shelter-in-place restrictions have been lifted at 108 N. Sangamon St., Gibson City, Illinois.



If you would like your small business highlighted on my blog, please contact me for consideration.

*All images supplied by Strictly Kids


Born and raised right here in central Illinois – Cissna Park to be exact – I transplanted over 20 years ago to Fisher. I’m proud to say I’m now a Fisher Bunnie (yep, that’s our school mascot, you can’t make these things up). When I’m not behind my camera, you can find me hanging out with my hubby and 2 kiddos, Payton and Mackenzie.

Photographs tell the story of our families. The good ones, the bad ones, and the ones that take our breath away – they’re all part of our perfectly imperfect stories, and each one is beautiful in its own unique way. I have been telling stories of families just like yours in the central Illinois/Champaign-Urbana area since 2012. Building lifelong relationships with my clients as their families grow, and telling their ever-changing story, is what makes my heart go pitter-patter. I would be honored to tell your family’s story..  To schedule your next session, please contact kDarling Photography by email or at 217.778.1325

For information on wedding photography, please visit our wedding website at www.SweetDarlingWeddings.com

April 24, 2020