By: Rebecca S. Jones
HOUSTON- Mrs. B’s Inspirational Lits & Fancy Fits, may be seen any day of the week, in passing Houston’s North Shepherd Drive, just a couple of blocks from the intersection of Little York Road. The cozy little shop is full with various: fragrances, body oils, beautiful hankies, hats and church fans designed by other saints who aspire to be entrepreneurs, all types of biblical literature and above all; a warm-spirited, well-versed and beautiful personality, in the person of Mrs. B who diligently greets and provides her undivided attention to any individual that walks into the store. However, the manifested reality that occupies the space located at 7208 N. Shepherd Dr., Suite 105A, is a direct result of a God-centered vision given to Mrs. Bernalda Hickman Hagan, affectionately known as, Mrs. B. But, Mrs. B’s Inspirational Lits & Fancy Fits was not birthed out of a bed of ease. For it was acquired through much prayer, perseverance, patience, faith in God and a strong volition to succeed.
Young Bernalda was reared in the heart of Acres Homes in Lincoln City. Being the daughter of a local pastor, the late Pastor W.T. Hickman yielded her a childhood experience complete with total religious dedication. She was raised during a time when Acres Homes was mostly a wooded area and farm animals were allowed in the community. Her parents had farm animals and she remembers how her brothers had to stake out cows before going to school; while she and her sisters had their chores to do.
In 1970, she graduated from M.C. Williams High School. It was during her high school years that her mother passed away. Though it was difficult for her coping with the loss of her mother (Lois Bernice Hickman), she always reflected back on how she and her brothers and sisters were taught the value of hard work by her parents. Therefore, when she became a mother she was insistent upon demonstrating the same morals and values into her children that she received. As a single mother, Ms. Bernalda understood the need of obtaining an education and maintaining a spiritual conviction. During an interview she expressed that she, took pages from her childhood and tried to instill in her son and daughter that they could have a productive life; but it has to include God. Accordingly, she is thankful that they have continued in the same tradition and are raising their children in the same manner. Desiring to demonstrate the, ‘practice what you preach’ mentality, she returned to school after twenty years. Once her daughter graduated high school, the two of them enrolled at Houston Community College. It was there that Mrs. B earned an Associate of Arts degree.
A grim period in Mrs. B’s life arose when she was diagnosed with cancer. She informed that it was an absolute test of faith. Thus, she reminisced of how she was: in and out of the hospital, given chemo-therapy treatment, ended up in hospice, lost all of her hair, could not talk and at one point was unconscious for at least four days. However, she recalled that when she finally came to, she was surrounded by church members. Ultimately, she remains thankful that the Lord saw fit to rescue her from her reproach. As it is, she feels that she has no choice but, “to serve Him”!
Through the years, Mrs. B has been employed by the City of Houston, where she dedicated five years of service. Following, she also maintained employment at the City of West University Place Police Department. It was while working at the police department that she had developed a yearning to open a Christian bookstore. She expressed that along with this desire she prayed a prayer that centered around the ‘Virtuous Woman’ that Proverbs 31 makes mention of. She vividly recalls that in June of 2007, she heard a voice which spoke to her saying, “It’s time!” Immediately while sitting in her office, she picked up the phone and called her retirement system to decide on the best viable option as to how she should proceed. Later that evening she went home to discuss her plan with her husband, who assured her that he would support her all the way. The very next day she typed up her resignation letter, without fear of what would happen next. After training an employee to take over her role at the police department, she retired after nineteen years of service.
Following the plan that God had given her, she went to work on making her vision a reality. Within a couple months of her retiring and after traveling around the state to purchase the needed material to open up her Christian bookstore, which she did at her home. Much to her chagrin, she did really well. Her business thrived so well, that she eventually added on to her home and closed her two-car garage; to accommodate the growing demand for her goods and services. Not long afterwards, she was able to secure a full boutique and bookstore all in one. She operated out of her home for several years.
In 2009, another opportunity presented itself. She received news that Mills Book Store located on West 34th was closing, so she went to see for herself. Once she got there she inquired about their ‘Sunday School’ book accounts and was obliged by the owner, who turned all of their accounts and files over to her. She took advantage of the accounts and began to make contacts with the account holders. Because her father had been a well-known pastor within the community before his demise, she knew a great deal of Mills’ account holders, which aided with her securing new accounts. Additionally, he gave her some other material and supplies inclusive with: book shelves, fixtures and a cash register, to name a few. This feat opened up the door for Mrs. B. to receive an even larger clientele than that of which she had already established.
One day while riding along Interstate 45 heading North, Mrs. B recalled looking at all of the businesses that existed and had no connection with God – strip joints, liquor stores, etc.. So she thought to herself, “Why shouldn’t a Christian Bookstore work?” As a result, she was encouraged even more to step out on faith and trust God to expand her bookstore. She desired to open it in an area where she felt it was much needed and would serve the people of God and those seeking to learn more about Him. On March 23, Mrs. B. did just that as she premiered the grand opening of, Mrs. B’s Inspirational Lits & Fancy Fits. She revealed that she sought God’s guidance on every little thing within the store.
Exemplifying the role of a true servant, Mrs. B revealed how she is, often teased that she can’t sell Mrs. B’s merchandise for pushing the sale of products for others at the shop. However she stated that, she just laughs and tells the naysayers that, she just believes that the Lord will provide. When asked about her struggle along the way to acquiring entrepreneurial ship, Mrs. B expressed that, “I’m not saying the road has been easy, it has not.” She went on to state, “I measure my struggles today by the struggles I endured during my bout with cancer. If it’s a day I’m not feeling well or, stumbling blocks try to get in my way, I think to myself, Ok missy, you’ve endured worst – shake it off and keep on moving!”
She also confessed during the interview that, “I did not retire from my job because I had an abundance of finances; then there are the larger Christian Bookstores that we all have been so comfortable supporting.” She continued to say that along her journey, there have been a few discouraging moments. Nevertheless, “I have come to the realization that not everyone will embrace the assignments God has for you; I also realize that in those times I just have to stay prayerful and encourage myself in the Lord”, Mrs. B concluded.
Mrs. B has two children: Son- Keenan (Lana) of Katy, TX and daughter Vette (Rev. Reginald Gee) of Alabama. She has five grandchildren: Jonathan, Timothy, Keeana, LeRaycia and Reginald, II. She is also a faithful member of Green Meadow Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Pastor Roy E. Stewart.
Mrs. B. prides herself with the fact that she has allowed God to direct her vision in every aspect of becoming a successful business owner. Mrs. B. stated that, “I stand on Philippians 4: 13 and I truly believe I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, after all, the whole work is about glorifying Him.” Undoubtedly, this principle has contributed to being the primary reason that her business has become an overall success. African-American News & Issues salutes Mrs. B, and commends her on providing a much-needed service within the community.