Boutique owner De Charlene Williams founded the Central Area Chamber of Commerce, has been grand marshal of at least three parades, been local businesswoman of the year, attended the Million Woman March and President Obama's inauguration in Washington, D.C., and had a cameo in an Alice In Chains video. "I love glitz and I love...

Share story

23rd in a series

De Charlene Williams declared at age 4: “I want my own beauty shop, my own clothing shop, my own hat shop.”

Her mother’s friends would ask, “Where did you get a daughter like that?”

But De Charlene was self-assured and certain.

Most Read Local Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

About 20 years later, in 1968, having worked three jobs to save $6,500, she found the building on Madison Street that’s still home to De Charlene’s Beauty & Boutique.

Even with one-fifth down and good credit, she couldn’t find a bank willing to give a business loan to a single, black woman with two kids.

De Charlene went to “30 area banks, and all turned me down,” she said.

But struggles as a kid led her to this idea: “When people would say ‘you can’t,’ I would say, ‘yes I can.’ “

She changed the name on the loan application to C.W. Williams and the 31st time worked. “Then they did not know it was a woman,” she said.

She’s since founded the Central Area Chamber of Commerce, has been grand marshal of at least three parades, been local businesswoman of the year, attended the Million Woman March and President Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., and had a cameo in an Alice In Chains video.

She ran for mayor against Norm Rice in 1993 with only a couple thousand dollars.

“He would not debate me. I wanted to raise the issue of jobs. We needed jobs.”

De Charlene got 1,476 votes.

She designs her own hats, and “I do all races of hair.”

What’s closest to her heart is her “dream of making every woman beautiful.”

“I love glitz and I love my work.”

Yes, she can.

Alan Berner: aberner@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8133