Betti Mclish is the owner of Betti’s Children’s Store, a Black-owned shop in the Bronx. The Harlem native has operated the store in the Williamsbridge neighborhood since 2016.
The shop specializes in children’s clothing from newborns to young teens and also has educational toys, baby needs and gifts for children and new mothers. Mclish is also a longtime employee of the MTA, working as station agent for the past 23 years.
After years of dreaming of owning her own business, Mclish turned her dream into a reality. As a single parent she knew firsthand the struggles of finding items for children at affordable prices.
“It can be complicated when you have more than one child and you’re single,” she said. “I wanted to do something that would be affordable for parents with low income. I was one myself. I love to dress up my children.”
A friend of hers brought up the idea. The two found a location where the rent was reasonable on Burke Avenue near White Plains Road. Mclish invested money from her 401(k) and 457 retirement plans. She also had the support of family and friends who helped to spread the word about her store.
She said, “It’s been fairly well. It has its low points. You might not get a customer every day, but that doesn’t mean you lose hope. You’ve got to have faith and you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing.”
The mother of three now grown children added that she wanted to do something to give back to the community. She enjoys interacting with the mothers in the neighborhood who are her prime customers.
“That’s my joy, talking to them,” she said. “I know their children and I just wanted to fulfill my dream. This doesn’t seem like it’s work, it’s actually a pleasure.”
Part of the dream also involves not being bored during retirement. With only a few years left before she leaves the MTA, she hopes to devote her free time entirely to the store.
Along with selling children’s clothes, Mclish also makes custom gift baskets for expecting mothers and children. They contain a variety of items, including diapers, bottles, toys and baby clothes.
Mclish is also opening the door for other entrepreneurs, allowing people who make children and baby items to sell them in her store. One example is a friend of hers who makes custom bow ties for boys that feature comic book heroes and children’s characters and another woman who makes “diaper babies” that use several usable diapers to make animals.
“I try to ask people what they do and if it revolves around children I tell them they’re invited to display their items here,” she said. “It’s been wonderful for them as well.”
Mclish said that she hopes to open another location and learn more about the business of children’s clothing.
Betti’s Children’s Store is located at 751 Burke Ave. in the Bronx and can be reached at 347-602-6883.