Gloria Casey, owner of Penny Annie’s, a consignment store in Lindale never intended to become a caretaker of the community that surrounds her on Maple Avenue. But all she had to do was look out the front door of her store and see that there was a need in that area.
“I don’t have to go out and volunteer or look for opportunities,” Casey said with a smile. “I can reach enough people right out my front door that need a little help or kindness.”
It was the very idea of helping people that started the idea for the store 25 years ago, after the birth of her daughter.
“I worked for many years at a local manufacturing company and was well pleased with the money I made there,” Casey said. “When my second child was born premature and I had to bring her home on an apnea heart monitor. I knew I needed to find a way to be with my children. She needed me.”
As the mother of a 3-year-old son and a newborn baby, she added to her husband’s income by cooking for a local doctor, leaving behind her manufacturing job. Casey said it was still hard to balance the kitchen work around taking care of her kids. It was then she realized her dream of opening Penny Annie’s, a place where families of all income levels could purchase affordable, used brand-name clothing.
Casey said that her love of her own family and her childhood memories really made her realize this was something the community needed. The skills she had applied to provide for her own family were realized in this business.
“I had $800 when I started the business,” she said. “I still have $316 of the original money in the store account. I made it work and God has blessed us with great success over the years.”
Casey said that she has so many memories of raising her own two children in the store.
“I used the two dressing rooms as time out rooms when they would fight and I’d separate them,” Casey laughed. “I would hear them giggling not too long after because they would have taken off their socks and were playing ball over the walls of the stall.”
She said that raising her family here was also a testament to how much she really needed the community she found working at Penny Annie’s.
“I have a passion for children and for this community,” Casey said. “When I have mothers come in and say that their child will graduate high school this year and because of my store they were not made fun of in school because of their clothing, it warms my heart.”
Casey said that she herself was raised poor and remembered children asking her questions about her shoes and clothes.
“I had a very good friend in Ms. House’s class in school and I will never forget her asking me why I wear the same pair of shoes to school every day,” Casey explained. “Of course, it was because it was the only pair I had, but I didn’t tell her that. I told her it was because I liked them. I was just too embarrassed to say that.”
Casey said that she takes great pride in being able to provide quality products and that she never had in mind to create a boutique atmosphere.
“When people come to buy used clothes, they are looking to save money and still buy something nice,” Casey explained. “Used clothes are still used — and should be affordable for everyone.”
When Casey isn’t working at the store, she is working with her church family at the Church of God of Prophecy in Cedartown. She said that they do a lot with clothing drives for those in the community who need extra help and provide food for those in need in the area.
“Everyone here gets involved when someone needs help,” Casey smiled. “I have had employees take food to a customer they haven’t seen in a while just to make sure they have what they need.”
At 58 years old, Casey does not plan to slow down quite yet. She wants to ensure the legacy of her business by passing it on or selling it to someone that will continue to nurture the community around the store.
“I think it’s important that people have a place to go to get what their families need, and with us having third and fourth generation customers come in, it shows that the need for this business is here,” Casey explained. “I want to make sure that this community’s homeless and needy will have a place to go to get care packages when they are cold and hungry as well.”
Casey explained that with the Maple Avenue bridge providing a good deal of shelter, there was always a need in the area to provide for the homeless community.
“I feel better when I know (we can) make a difference for someone that could use clothing or food. Just being there for them makes me happy,” Casey explained.
When asked about her future, Casey just smiles.
“I am married to a handsome man and I plan to work until he tells me he is ready to hang it up and walk off into the sunset together and have some fun.”
Penny Annie’s will celebrate its 25th anniversary in business Jan. 31st and Feb. 1 with a special sale. Casey invited the community to come in and celebrate this milestone with her family.