Neighborhood Walk Leads to Entrepreneurship

NILES, Ohio – Mary Bennett was walking near her new home in Niles when she saw a hiring sign outside of a local screen-printing and embroidery shop. Three years later, Bennett is in the beginning stages of transitioning to owner of the business.

Select Sportswear Inc., 627 N. Main St. in Niles, has been operated by the McCarty family for 27 years. The shop offers a variety of custom items and school spirit wear.

“We first opened up when my wife and I sponsored a softball team and our daughter was playing,” says Mike McCarty, current owner.

While shopping at the store to buy their daughter’s uniform, McCarty and his wife learned that the owner was selling because of his health condition.

“We bought it and the rest is history,” says McCarty.

About a year ago, the store added “direct-to-garment” printing.

“Anything you can see on a screen, we can put on a shirt,” says McCarty.

McCarty says the process is similar to an inkjet printer that prints directly onto garments. He says it gives the business the ability to print anything that is on a computer screen.

“It’s a relatively old process that has been around for a while but no one had perfected it until about a year ago,” he says.

About three years ago when Bennett walked into the shop, she says she had no idea what was waiting for her.

“I had no idea what this place was,” she says. “I walked in and met Mike and he started showing me around. I started the next day.”

Although Bennett says she was already considering a job change, what drew her in were McCarty and his wife, Mary Kay. Bennett began by doing work behind the scenes at the store such as cleaning screens, and it spiraled from there.

Over the years, Bennett says she has taken on more roles at the store, including operations manger. She has also helped the store reach a younger clientele through an online presence and text communications with customers who are attending college.

“It takes too long to get back on email when running from class to class,” says Bennett. “A simple text has worked out well with several customers.”

Bennett says artwork for shirts can also be sent via a text.

“It just goes faster,” she says. “For busy people, that works well.”

In January 2023, Bennett’s full transition to business owner will commence as the McCartys say they are ready for retirement. Bennett says she plans to continue broadening the shop’s marketing and product offerings.

“I love my customers,” she says. “I remember my first time working at the counter. And every time that customer comes in – my very first own customer – it just makes me smile. I like that she keeps coming back. I appreciate all of my customers.”

Pictured at top: Mike and Mary Kay McCarty bought Select Sportswear when the previous owner was selling the shop. Now Mary Bennett is transitioning to ownership.