Colleen Maia remembers going to Wilson's grocery store at 128 Chicago Ave. in Oak Park with her grandmother as a little girl.
What used to the the popsicle counter now showcases home goods for sale at her boutique, BEE Home & Garden, which opened a little over a year ago in the same space.
The rehabbed building now looks like it belongs in a home decor magazine or a showroom—nothing like an old grocery store.
Maia, a realtor who also rehabs homes, said her decision to purchase the building was actually an impulsive one. With no retail experience, her short time running a business has been "exciting and challenging."
But the former Peace Corps member, daycare provider, social services worker and current realtor thrives on a challenge, and has embraced the pace and learning curve that come with owning a business.
Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30, she said, was actually the best day in the history of the store. "I am really appreciative of the community... and not just Oak Park."
Maia, whose creative talent shows in every nook and cranny of the store, said she hopes to expand her business to offer more consulting services to her customers.
She said she's somewhat of a serial mover-decorator, and is good at doing it on a budget. She said she also hopes to expand the store's signature garden center during the garden season, and sell more furniture and antiques and the store.
So, what are her secrets to creating a gorgeous space?
Maia shared a few tips for people working on getting the right balance in their homes.
"You want your house to be inviting and livable, and a lot of people just need a little bit of help," she said.
The key, for most people, to having a lovable home is editing.
"It's hard to have a lot of stuff. You have to make sure it's calm and not overwhelming... The key for most people in having a house that they really like is to edit—to only buy what they really like," she said.
She also said plants and books say a lot about a person.
I really believe (that) you need plants in your house. There's something about having a living thing in your house that makes it more special. It adds personality, and I think you can tell a lot by somebody's house by their books."
"Those little things really make a house more personal."