Dolly Dressing Up Our Community By Cara Montgomery

“Am I gonna buy something to wear, am I going to put food in my kid’s mouth, or am I going to get a TransPass for the week? At I Spy, You Buy, you would be able to manage it all!” says Dolly Lewis, the owner of Eye of the Doll: I Spy, You Buy, an outdoor thrift shop for men, women, and children. Dolly hears dilemmas like these often from customers visiting her shop. Her store provides quality clothes handpicked by the fashionista herself! However, she calls herself a “spy” when she’s in her zone searching around for the hottest pieces!! Dolly says, “It’s like a treasure hunt, it’s my retail therapy, and the excitement is so real. I live for this.” Proceeds from the store benefit the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network which serves the city’s families experiencing homelessness.

“They fired me and told me that my passion and determination was overbearing, overwhelming, and had an effect on my co-workers’ ability.”

Growing up, Dolly was in foster care. Because of her experiences living with rich and poor families, she knows how it feels to “have and to have not” At one point, she had to wear hand-me downs that were in poor condition. She says that at the time, she “never knew that you could actually go into a thrift store and find good pieces” because what was handed down to her was in “horrible condition.” She remembers being teased and bullied about the holes in her shoes and tears in her pants in elementary school, so when she turned 18 she decided to really dedicate herself to the art of thrifting. Soon after, she began working at a thrift store called Circle Thrift, where she loved the customers and worked her hardest to serve them. Dolly says, she was held back from being promoted to a higher position and eventually even fired. “They fired me and told me that my passion and determination was overbearing, overwhelming, and had an effect on my co-workers’ ability. Because if you have somebody that’s coming in working hard while others are slacking, it shows. They say one bad apple will spoil the bunch but one good apple will make the others basically not even exist.” So instead of “spoiling” after being fired, she looked to God for strength and made up her mind to open her own store. “In 2013, I went downtown, got the necessary paperwork, and started I Spy, You Buy Outdoor Thrift Shop”, she explains. Ever since, Dolly has been selling trendy fashion pieces “all at low prices and sure to stretch your dollars.” She says that when you look good, you feel good, and you can produce more in networking and enhance your working ability.
Although Dolly’s shop has been successful, she says that when she first started I Spy, You Buy, a lot of people did not believe in her. “I had a thousand and one “How can you?” questions or “I don’t think you can” comments instead of “Hey Dolly, How can I help with that”? or “Can I help get you the supplies you need? She explains, “At that moment I knew that I could either make what they were saying my reality or show them that I can.” She visited different thrift stores and saw for herself all the women entrepreneurs operating their own shops and asked them for advice. She did not allow being shot down by her peers and primary support team to discourage her. For a while she struggled, but put every dollar she had into I Spy, You Buy and began holding fundraisers to benefit the store. It flourished before her eyes.

“I know how it feels to have nothing so I’m looking to gain it all.”

Because of Dolly’s affordable prices, the quality of the clothing sold, and her amazing connection to her customers, she is experiencing greater success than she could have imagined. Dolly has set some big goals for herself: “My main goal is to have a storefront so that no matter what kind of weather, the store can open.” Her store only opens on the weekend because it is outdoors. However, she stated that if she had an actual storefront it would be open seven days a week because she does not look at this as work but something that makes her happy and fuels her passion. In addition, when she is able to achieve that goal, she wants to employ youth and college students because she relates to their struggles of working to better themselves in today’s unpredictable economy. Furthermore, when things get difficult, and those dreams seem to be getting harder to accomplish she says “being a single mom pushes me when I feel like giving up, knowing that I’m responsible for someone else’s life.”

Dolly’s future aspirations include wanting to start a clothing line, opening a shelter for teenagers, and becoming a motivational speaker to uplift young women. “I want to lift spirits and reach someone, because when you’re dead and gone, all you leave behind is memory. And I want to know that I was able to touch someone’s life.” And no doubt she has!

Also, look For Dolly on Instagram and facebook @eyeofthedoll and contact her by email
And for more information on Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network visit!
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