When customers walk into the All the Things Boutique in Central City, they often are greeted with a hug by 13-year-old Bailey Graham, who helps run the store.
Bailey, who has Down syndrome, likes to show customers her favorite items for sale, including gluten-free candy, freeze-dried Skittles, fidget toys and locally made products.
While the store started as a way to help Bailey, it also helps others in the community who have Down syndrome, said Shauna Graham, Bailey’s mom who co-owns the boutique. She said it has shown how much people will come together for people like Bailey.
“People are ready and willing to support those with disabilities, but we have to give them the opportunity,” she said.
What started as a school assignment, Bailey’s store has grown into an effort that combines three businesses together, a job program for people with disabilities and a scholarship for people with developmental disabilities or those who want to work with them.
Bailey dreamed of owning a slime, bath bomb and candy shop after Central City Middle School fifth-grade teachers, Ashley Beckman and Julie Brandes, told Bailey to write about her dream job.
In 2020, the dream became a reality when Bailey’s mom and dad, Shauna and Zeb Graham helped Bailey start the online businesses Bailey Boxes and You are Worth it LLC.
Two years later, Shauna Graham and Jamie Wright opened a storefront that combined Bailey Boxes, You are Worth it and Wright’s children’s clothes store into All the Things Boutique in March 2022.
The boutique now helps others who have intellectual or developmental disabilities by giving them opportunities to try out jobs they wouldn’t be able to try out originally. This year, one of Bailey’s teachers came up with an idea for someone in the 18-to-21-year-old Individualized Education Program [IEP] to try helping out at the store. Shauna Graham said they’re starting small and hope to offer positions to people.
Bailey didn’t love school and found certain things challenging, Shauna Graham said. Certain activities at the store, such as counting change, challenge Bailey.
“I do not enjoy money,” Bailey said. “I prefer cards and Apple watches.”
Shauna said Bailey is very honest about the products she tries and decides whether something will be sold in a Bailey Box or in the store. Bailey Boxes are packages with items Bailey personally picks out and You are Worth it is Bailey’s online store where she sells T-shirts.
The original name for the store, You are Worth It, comes straight from Bailey.
“The reason that we came up with that name is because, probably about two years ago, Bailey would just start telling everybody that they were worth it when she was meeting them,” Shauna said.
The money that the store has made allowed the Grahams to create a scholarship for anyone with a disability or anyone wanting to work with those with disabilities. The first scholarship went to a local student who wants to become a special education teacher. This year, it went to a student studying physical therapy who wants to work in pediatrics.
You are Worth It LLC’s Facebook page is filled with pictures of Bailey, the Graham family, the store and the scholarship recipients. Bailey said she loves her four sisters and her parents. She recognizes how much they do for her, especially her mom.
“My mom helped me with a part of the store and she’s the most amazing mom ever,” Bailey said.
Zeb Graham, Bailey’s father, said the whole family is able to be a part of the store by coming in to help Bailey continue her dreams.
“Thursdays are kind of like a night where we’re usually down there because it’s open a little bit later,” he said. “It’s mainly like early morning to like mid-afternoon. So they’re always in school at that time, but Thursday nights are kind of the typical night where everybody comes down there, restocks things, helps the customers, helps with whatever duties we need help with too.”
Bailey said she loves to help people and make them smile. She said she comes in on Thursday from 4-7 p.m. to help people find their stuff. Her mother said the work is good for her daughter.
“Everything’s hard from holding a pencil to remembering how to spell, to plotting out a store,” Shauna Graham said. “I mean, all of that stuff is hard for her. So when you experience hard all day, it’s kind of nice to have something to go to. I think it’s fun for her to be able to come here where she hugs everybody that comes in and she loves checking people out.”
Interacting with and telling customers about products she loves is what Bailey said she loves most about operating the store, so it came as no surprise she also loved the experience of public speaking. After the store opened, Bailey spoke at the October 2022 People First conference in Kearney and went around to as many people as possible, according to Shauna Graham.
“Bailey loved it,” Shauna said. “I mean, she took the microphone and it was just hilarious. She was like ‘Who’s got questions?’ And she goes, ‘You have a question.’”
The Arc of Nebraska, a non-profit organization that advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, held a Senatorial dinner at the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska on March 8.
The dinner is a yearly event for celebrating continued wins that assist people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, commonly referred to as IDDs, and families of people with such disabilities. The Arc of Nebraska invited Bailey and Shauna as keynote speakers to tell people about Bailey’s experience as a store owner with Down syndrome.
“We get asked frequently about why we started our store and that’s because we think everybody in this room wants to have meaningful and fulfilling work,” Shauna Graham said at the Senatorial dinner. “Nobody wants to get up and kind of drag their feet on the floor to wherever you’re headed that day, so we were really trying to see what that would look like for Bailey when she’s older.”
Shauna said before the dinner there are limited pathways for people with disabilities.
“What does life after high school look like?” Shauna Graham said. “There’s just not a lot of jobs around that aren’t housekeeping related or things like that, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we just wanted to give Bailey something that she enjoyed doing.”