It’s hard to pin down, exactly, what is it about the vibe of historic McKinney local Yvonne Evans that feels, well, so unusual, until you get a peek into her passions. For starters there’s her fascination with chickens (Yvonne founded the annual McKinney Tour de Coop, which will celebrate its fifth year next April), her fascination with aesthetics (she owns Yvonne’s Garden Spa McKinney), and her fascination with bygone eras. Vintage is her thing, Mama. A warning: hang with Yvonne for very long, and you might find yourself gaining a passion for all three, too.
On their own, each topic makes Yvonne Evans an interesting person to converse with. But combined, they make her outright fascinating. Perhaps that’s because with every expression, word, and gesture, Yvonne implicitly states that she is delighted by the charm she sees in them. The past, she admits, is ever wooing her, enticing her to share tidbits of it with the rest of us in the here and now.
I suggest to George, Yvonne’s swell husband of 25 years, that the single word I’d used to describe Yvonne would be “ethereal.” Because as I watch her or talk with her, I get the feeling that unseen movement is swirling about us. I can almost hear the swish of skirt…the notes of piano…the rhythmic cadence of horse hoofs on gas-lit cobblestone.
“You have that exactly right,” agrees George. “Yvonne definitely has an old vintage soul. She wants people to understand the beauty of the past. That’s why she loves historic McKinney, and why she launched the chicken house tour.”
And did the tour start with the cluster of 10 chickens comfortably roosting in your Waddill Street back yard?
Indeed, says George. “Yvonne did all the research of how to take care of them, and got really passionate about them. I simply supported her, as I do with anything that grabs her interest.” He pauses, then quips, “I’m glad she’s not into parrots. I would not have been able to stand the constant noise!” I hear that!
Hmmmm…so who rules the roost, George—the chickens or Yvonne?
George laughs. “The chicken are low maintenance. They’re very friendly, which makes them fun. It’s a partnership, really. We take good care of them, and in return they give us fresh eggs.”
Susan Beers, neighborhood real estate agent extraordinaire, shares Yvonne’s love of historic McKinney. She is Yvonne’s next door neighbor, spa client, and good friend. She’s not particularly charmed by the chickens, but she does appreciate their offerings. “How lucky am I,” she asks, “that I can meet Yvonne at the white picket fence separating our back yards and be given fresh eggs?”
The fact that historic McKinney has a friendly, old-town feel—where raising backyard chickens is both possible and even appreciated—lured George and Yvonne into leaving the hustle and bustle of Dallas. They bought an historic home on Waddill Street once owned by McKinney’s postmaster. Yvonne decorated with French Victorian furnishings, clueless that she had a “thing” for birds until a workman noted that every single room paid homage to winged foul. Yvonne laughs. “I had no idea I had this weird obsession with birds. I thought everyone loved them!”
It delights Yvonne to let people in on the simple pleasures of raising chickens. Boo Boo, a petite black Cochin Frizzle that can’t fly because his wings formed improperly, is her favorite. George has his favorites, too. Because they handle the birds frequently, the birds enjoy their presence. “It’s all about how much time you spend with them,” says Yvonne. “And how good you are to them, of course. Ours talk to us.”
Squawks bad, peeps good, George?
The chickens are protected from the Texas elements by two houses that George and a friend built, one of which George says “started as one of those pre-fab children’s playhouse kits that come in a thousand pieces.” To the sturdy structures, which heat or cool the chickens as needed, Yvonne added feminine touches: antique plates, a mirror, figurines, bird paintings, and a chandelier. “It’s my job to clean the coops,” Yvonne admits, “which is why I made them pretty.” She grins, as if to challenge me to find fault with that logic. I can’t.
Yvonne takes credit for launching the idea of the Coop tour, but says it’s a community-wide endeavor that has found success over the past four years because so many McKinney businesses, downtown merchants, and residents have chosen to support and volunteer for it.
The Coop tour initially launched as part of the McKinney Historical Neighborhood Association (MHNA) as a neighbor-only event. MHNA soon realized that the event had grown so popular, that it needed to be opened to the general public. The Coop tour now operates under McKinney’s Heritage Guild/Chestnut Square, a 501c3 non-profit, which ensures participating Coop sponsors can take a tax deduction. Proceeds benefit the Historic Chestnut Square and the Farmers Market it hosts most Saturdays. “It’s a great fit,” says Yvonne, “because the Coop tour dovetails perfectly with Chestnut Square’s mission to ‘Celebrate community, preserve history, and inspire the future.’”
Yvonne is head coordinator (or as she likes to say, “head chick”) of the McKinney Tour de Coop. She has already assembled a volunteer committee to help plan the 2017 event and solicit sponsors. Says Theresa Strange Johnston, one of those dedicated committee members, sales topped 500 tickets for the 2016 tour, so they expect even higher numbers next April. “The Coop tour is getting on the map! McKinney has a rich history, and raising chickens was certainly part of it. What’s cool is how unique all of the coops are. The tour has really ignited local interest in raising chickens, especially since people can get their questions answered. I love Yvonne’s passion for helping to make a choice of the past a popular choice for the present.”
Next year’s tour, in addition to “quality, palatial” coops and complimentary education classes on chicken keeping, will feature an art auction and an educational “Treasure Hunt” app that gives visitors a self-guided tour of the coop route. If you’re interested in adding your coop to the tour, promptly send an email to Yvonne at McKinneyTourdeCoop@gmail.com. Note: the deadline for doing so is February 14. Chicken love!
Also use that email to let Yvonne know if you’re interested in volunteering to sell Tour de Coop merchandise (t-shirts, totes, and hats), collect monetary donations, or assist coop owners on the day of the tour (April 29).
I’ll be there in the wide-brim straw hat I picked up at Bay Willow Design (read my blog post on the hat made for me), a cozy millinery shop on Virginia Street owned by the charming Jenny Mathieson-Foster. I can’t wait to see what vintage hat Yvonne decides to go with.
For this year’s tour, Yvonne commissioned Jenny to create the “bee” hat pictured above. Yvonne’s accompanying adorable gingham apron was crafted by Jill Luig, (seated right, with Jenny) yet another of McKinney’s talented fabric artists. You can find Jill hanging at Bay Willow, as her studio space is in Jenny’s downtown storefront.
Personally, I can’t get enough of seeing Yvonne sporting one of her retro outfits (her favorite fashion styles typically fall between 1890 and 1930). Because when Yvonne dons her vintage-inspired clothing, perhaps embellished by a fascinator or period chapeau created by Jenny, you can actually feel the pulse of the past in the air.
Look at this patinated photo of Yvonne, and you’d have to agree that she wears the past well. I look at the stunning photo and question whether Yvonne wouldn’t have been tickled pink to have been born ages ago. I don’t quite believe her quick “Heck, no!” until she starts listing modern conveniences (including air conditioning and anti-aging products) that she can’t imagine doing without. “But,” she adds, “it’s a wonderful luxury to romanticize those eras.”
When it comes to aesthetics, Yvonne is committed to staying on the cutting edge of what she can achieve for clients at her lovely spa, Yvonne’s Garden Spa McKinney. Yvonne suffered early with severe acne, as well as scarring and discoloration associated with chronic inflammation and UV damage, so she intimately recognizes how much appearance affects self-esteem.
“I suffered a lot,” she says, “but I was blessed to connect with a highly skilled aesthetician who guided me through my corrective journey to begin to discover my ‘natural beauty.’ I’ve come full circle, as I now help my clients to look beautiful.”
Yvonne moved her aesthetician services from Dallas to historic McKinney six years ago, claiming a room on the southern end of her Waddill Street home. Clients access it via the private entrance, after parking on the long gravel driveway behind her house. George helped with the heavy lifting (including three days of jackhammering to remove the Pepto-Bismol pink floor and wall tiles in the adjoining bathroom), but Yvonne took the lead in creating the signature ambiance of her spa oasis. She hired muralist Craig Grimston, proprietor of Muralicious, to paint the walls, ceiling, and lovely Trompe L’oeil murals depicting idyllic vistas, cottony clouds, and—wait for it—soaring birds.
I can personally attest that the room is decadent and lush, soothing and inviting. It’s the little details—from the waiting bottled water and trail mix, to the private dressing room, to the super comfortable massage table—coupled with the guarantee that for the next hour or two no one will barge in to disrupt your oasis of pampering that makes Yvonne’s Garden Spa McKinney so lovely to visit. Many of Yvonne’s Dallas clients, some of whom have been with Yvonne for nearly 20 years, willingly make the drive north to historic McKinney, in part because of the peaceful environment.
Susan sighs. “I love that room.”
Susan also loves the quick commute of a skip, hop, and jump over their dividing fence. Susan bursts out laughing, then lets me in on the joke. “One morning I tried climbing the fence in my white robe, coffee in hand.” Susan took a tumble. “I lost my robe, but saved my coffee.” She grins. “Priorities, right?”
The gal pals are adding a gate soon, to ensure nothing hinders Susan’s access to Yvonne’s oxygen facials. “Yvonne also does my waxing and chemical peels,” shares Susan. “I trust Yvonne totally because she researches everything before she does it. She’s a perfectionist.”
“That’s true,” says George. “She’ll try new things on herself first, after doing all the research and classes on it. Then she’ll ask me to get on the table to be her guinea pig. I’ve never refused, because I’ve always gotten positive results.”
Some of Yvonne’s specialties are the oxygen facial, and Dermapen, a proven therapy for boosting collagen levels to turn back the years. It’s all the rage now, for sure. Down time is minimal, and the results impressive.
In addition to her esthetics training Yvonne graduated, cum laude, from Texas Women’s University with a degree in Occupational Therapy (Health Science). Yvonne is always humble, but readily acknowledges her significant education, training, and skill.
“I have been called a ‘mad scientist’ and ‘good witch,’ because of my success in finding solutions and treatments for skin challenges,” says Yvonne. “But I think of myself as simply a well-trained aesthetician who stays current on what works. My clients don’t just get a facial, they get the added value of tapping into my tremendous knowledge in health science. I typically can visibly improve aged and acne skin in a couple of months, and strengthen and reverse most skin damage caused by rosaceous, chronic inflammation and acne scars in about a year, as long as my clients do their part. Good skin definitely takes a team effort. I can’t stress enough the importance of being consistent with a simple, but effective, skin care regime.”
Yvonne looks at me, obviously tired of answering my nosy questions, but patiently awaits the next, to be kind. She’s not quite sure what to make of my interest in her, but she’s game to see where this goes. But after a tour of her charming backyard coop and our several-hour chat about Yvonne’s Garden Spa McKinney, I, too, am talked out.
What I am dying to do—after a quick protein break (Yvonne keeps a ready supply of protein bars on the dresser by the spa entrance)—is play in Yvonne’s closet! “Oh, please, please, please!” silently begs my fantasy-loving inner child. I am dying to watch Yvonne emerge as mysterious, beautiful creatures of the past with a little help from her period clothing, jewelry, furs, and fedoras. I bet she even owns a tiara!
I share none of these thoughts, of course, as I profusely thank her for her time, slip out to my car, and head home. Asking to rifle through another gal’s closet is just too uncool for school, you know. One must be asked to participate in that honor. And one must be careful to approach with respect and restraint, so as to not scare off the inviter. So I will wait—as I study up on chickens—and perhaps the writings of the Brontë sisters.
I’m pretty sure, Yvonne, that I can be at your door in under 30 seconds flat, should you cry, “Cluck! Cluck!”
Featured Historic McKinney Links:
Yvonne’s Garden Spa McKinney: yvonnesgardenspa.com
McKinney Tour de Coop: mckinneytourdecoop.com
Muralist Craig Grimston: muralicious.com
McKinney Realtor Susan Beers: http://susanbeers.fathomrealty.com/
Bay Willow Design: http://www.baywillowdesign.com/
Fabric Artist Jill Luig: https://www.etsy.com/shop/jillluigs
Chestnut Square: http://www.chestnutsquare.org/
McKinney Writer Sheri A. Bell: sheriabell.com/