Oak Park shop owner busy building up Bee
Life-long Oak Park resident Colleen Maia has opened Bee Home and Garden on the village’s east side. | Meredith Morris~for Sun-Times Media
sale at Bee?
Earrings with antique Italian mosaics, $58
Small candy dish, $4
Vintage Wedgwood china set for six, $250
Pair of magenta-colored tapers, $10
Antique squirrel-shaped Christmas ornament, $7
Updated: December 23, 2012 6:14AM
OAK PARK — Something new is abuzz in east Oak Park: Bee Home and Garden, 128 Chicago Ave.
The shop, a first foray into retail sales by life-long village resident Colleen Maia, presents new and vintage china, glassware, decorative objects, jewelry and a smattering of furniture.
“It’s a collection of everything I find pretty,” said Maia, who opened Bee at the end of September and is still building an inventory of pieces she collects at venues such as estate sales and auctions.
“I have a good radar for finding stuff,” she said. She also has the ability to assess what would be an attractive or eclectic addition to home decor. Maia’s history of antiquing and rehabbing homes has created “a sense of what a space can be,” she said.
Maia is particularly fond of vintage items because of their stories. One oval-shaped antique mirror she points to has an inscription on the back from a man to a woman in 1874. It was probably a gift to a girlfriend, Maia surmises.
“If someone comes in and buys something new, I’m happy. If someone comes in and buys something vintage that I really love, it’s like, ‘bye-bye, friend,’” she said.
With her shop’s browsable inventory, Maia aims to please a variety of buyers.
“I try to have most things in a range of prices, and a lot of affordable things,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to come in here and feel it’s too expensive.”
Jewelry, for instance, begins at about $14 for a beaded bracelet. Vintage mirrors range from $45 to $200.
The store’s name, Bee, is emblematic.
“The bee is a symbol of industry. I also read that, aerodynamically, a bee should not be able to fly, but it can,” Maia said.
When Maia decided to open her business on Oak Park’s east side, she also invested in the community. She bought the building that contains her storefront – formerly Wilson’s grocery store – and hopes to see the area thrive.
For business owners, neighborhood benefits include ample free parking and access to Oak Park consumers underserved by commercial enterprise, Maia said. Bee’s location is partly a response to people who question why there isn’t more east side development.
“You say it, you hear it, so why not do something about it?” she said. “If we just get the word out a little more.”
One local homeowner, Peggy LaFleur, is enamored of Bee.
“I am so excited to see retail in this section of Oak Park. It’s such a sweet and stylish store, it’s already brightened up this stretch of Chicago Avenue,” she said.
Whereas LaFleur initially entered the shop to support a local business, she now visits regularly to purchase gifts “or just to indulge myself.”
“It’s a place where you feel you can just hang out a bit and see what’s new,” she said.
To launch 2013, Maia plans to extend Bee’s mission to also support professional development of girls. Maia has raised two daughters, both young adults who helped her open the store.
“I’m at the point in my life where I really need to do something meaningful. One of the things I’m going to do with this store is hire first-generation, college-bound girls from Oak Park-River Forest High School to work here and learn about business,” she said.
In addition, she and her daughters will help guide the girls through the college admission and scholarship application process, “so they can have the opportunities that every girl deserves.”
Bee Home and Garden is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more, call (708) 715-0560.