New Dowagiac business pays tribute to owners’ daughter

Published 2:48 pm Monday, April 20, 2020

DOWAGIAC — Surrounded by sparkly handbags and floral printed purses, Beth Clark, the owner of Mariah’s Closet, 113 Commercial St., Dowagiac, sits on a couch in her new storefront, explaining how people often think her name is Mariah.

The name of Clark’s business, which started in 2017, is a tribute to her daughter, Mariah, who died as a stillborn on Jan. 17, 2013.

“This didn’t happen right away,” Clark said of the purse filled room, designed to look like a customer is entering a closet. “It was kind of one of those things where I had to do something because I didn’t want Mariah to be forgotten about.”

With the support of her husband Corey, decided to sell purses to honor their daughter after a late-night conversation. It started as Clark hosting purse parties for her cousins and close friends.

Fast forward three years and the couple, who have four sons, are eagerly awaiting the date they can officially open the doors to their brick and mortar storefront. The COVID-19 pandemic and executive orders have kept them patiently waiting for May 1, Clark said.

The couple, who are both Dowagiac natives, started looking to expand their business into a storefront around the new year. The process of leasing the building was surprisingly quick, Clark said. After contacting the landlord, the couple could rent out the building as soon as possible.

“The process took three days,” Clark said. “I looked through the windows and knew I wanted it. We rented it the next day. It fell into our laps.”

Last week, Clark opened by appointment only and had 20 to 30 private meetings — something she did not expect to happen.

“People like the personal appointments because it makes them feel important,” Clark said.

The popularity of appointments inspired Clark to tweak her original hours of operation. When the store officially opens to the public, the store hours will be noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. On Mondays, Clark will offer private appointments only. Mornings throughout the week will be left open for other possible private shopping meetings.

Clark said the schedule would also ease her transition from stay-at-home mom and running Mariah’s Closet out of her home to her new role as a small business owner.

“It will allow me to balance this new transition, especially because [my kids] do have to do school from home,” she said. “I can still have my morning to do breakfast and to prep dinner. It will give me some time once everything returns to normal.”

On shelves designed to look like a closet, Clark said the store carries wallets, cross-body purses, fannypacks, beach bags, tote bags, seasonal purses and value sets, which she considers her “signature” item.

“We always carry black because who doesn’t love a black purse?” Clark said.

The purses are not name brand. Instead, Clark calls them quality handbags.

“That is what we are trying to get to stick, and hopefully, we can trademark [Mariah’s Closet Quality Handbags],” she said.

Clark wants to offer giveaways as a form of customer appreciation. She is currently hosting giveaways through Facebook on a random schedule. Once the store can open to the public, patrons will be able to buy raffle tickets to go toward the giveaway. At the end of the deadline, Clark will pick a name from a pink purse sitting on the store counter with Mariah’s name on it.

“That was made for my baby shower before I had her,” Clark added.

Clark and her husband live by the saying that although they are from a small town, they do not have small town dreams. Naturally, Clark wants to see an expansion of locations for Mariah’s Closet. She has her sights set on South Bend and Kalamazoo. The couple has family in New York and Tennessee, where they already ship products to. However, they hope to maintain the store’s heart in Dowagiac.

“We wanted it to be here first because this is where we are from,” Clark said. “Hopefully, this can uphold and maintain through all the curveballs life is throwing us right now.”

Currently, Clark plans to run the store full-time with help from her husband and one of her sons.

“He is 11 and likes the business type thing,” she said. “He will probably be in here quite a bit.”

As Clark transitions to owning her storefront, she is excited to learn all the new processes.

“I like it and am ready to work for myself and make this work in whatever way we can,” she said. “We want to keep our daughter alive without her being able to be here.”