‘Corbin icon’ Maxine VonGruenigen passes away; Former owner of Maggie J’s Dress Shop was 90-years-old
A local business icon was lost late last week as Maxine VonGruenigen, the former longtime owner of Maggie J’s Dress Shop in downtown Corbin, passed away at her home at the age of 90.
Born and raised in Corbin, VonGruenigen was a lifelong member of First Baptist Church, and was partly responsible for many of the town’s most popular yearly events such as Octoberfest and the Downtown Christmas Open House.
VonGruenigen passed on Friday, September 17, leaving behind her husband of 70 years, Eldred; a son, Eddie; daughter-in-law, Rita; grandsons Casey and Chad; great-granddaughters Ella and Leah; a sister, Wylene Jones, and a niece, Susan Jones.
She was preceded in death by her parents, James Alfred and Eula Burnett Taylor, and a brother-in-law, Mack Jones.
VonGruenigen made the decision to close the doors of Maggie J’s in March of 2018 after it had been in business for 76 years. “I’m not doing this because I have problems or owe money,” she said in a February 2018 report by the News Journal. “I just thought it was time to give it up.”
Vongruenigen had worked at the store from age 15 until age 88. After such a long career, she said that she had no plans to just “sit at home” after retirement. Rather, she said that she would “be everywhere,” and remain active in the Corbin community.
“Maxine embodied what it means to be a Corbinite,” said Corbin Mayor Suzie Razmus. “She was truly iconic, and our town will be a little less fabulous without her.”
Betty Comer, owner of Gibson’s Music, was a close friend of VonGruenigen’s for many years, sharing the same city block as Maggie J’s in downtown Corbin. “Maxine was a legend,” Comer said. “She really was.”
“We were very close. I bought from Maxine before I even started the music store. She will be missed, for sure.”
“She was crazy about Corbin,” Comer added. “She was all for anything that would advance the town in some way. She just loved to laugh and have a good time. She was a barrel of fun.”
Tania Marcum worked with VonGruenigen from the late eighties all the way up until the store closed in 2018. Reflecting back on that time, she said, “I’ve known her my entire life. She did so much for our community. Things that many people probably never even knew about.”
“To be a businesswoman at the time that she started was very unusual,” Marcum continued. “She had a great business mind, though, and really was a frontrunner. She blazed a trail for a lot of women in the business world.”
“It was remarkable to see her working. She didn’t quit until she was 88, and the store was always a happy place. She was always happy to see people coming in, whether they were spending money or not.”
“She was such a character,” Marcum said in sum. “There will never be another like her. If you knew Maxine, you loved her.”
In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic, all services for VonGruenigen will be privately held. Arrangements are being made by the Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, donations are requested to be made to First Baptist Church, 401 N. Laurel Avenue, Corbin, KY 40701.