By Joel Hall
In 1970, recently married, and fresh out of Forest Park High School, Becky Yvonne Bartlett went into business with her mother, Inez Martin, and started Becky Yvonne Shoppe in Morrow.
Thirty-eight years later, serving as co-owner and operator of the women's boutique has been Bartlett's one and only occupation.
However, recent complications from cancer have Bartlett set to close her shop March 31.
One of the oldest, independent retailers in Morrow, the boutique has long been a supporter of local civic activities, including supplying clothes for the Morrow Civic Woman's Club's annual Fashion Show. Every year, the fund-raiser generates thousands of dollars for local educational scholarships for women and children.
On Saturday, Morrow Mayor Jim Millirons declared March 15 as "Becky Yvonne Bartlett Day" in honor of Bartlett's years of community service to his city.
"We're just so thoroughly pulling for her, and give her our best wishes, because she is such a nice person," said Millirons. "She's just been an outstanding supporter of the community and the retail portion of the city. The least we can do is give her the recognition she deserves."
Employees, and long-time shoppers, say the closing of the shop will be a significant loss to the Morrow community.
Marie Barber, a retired resource coordinator for Clayton County Schools, purchased clothes from Bartlett's shop for 30 years prior to becoming an employee. She said the closing of Becky Yvonne Shoppe is "the end of an era."
"You can't find boutiques of this quality anymore," said Barber. "It's not just a place to buy clothes, it's a place to relieve stress."
Barber said the fact Bartlett has continued to stay positive while fighting cancer has been an inspiration to the handful of ladies on the shop's staff.
"She has been the glue that has held us together, despite what she has had to endure," said Barber. "Becky has truly been an inspiration to all of us, because just watching her has made us stronger."
Jane Young, a member of the Morrow Civic Woman's Club since it's inception in 1964, said local women have long flocked to Bartlett's store because of its fair prices, unique selections, and thoughtful staff. The store has "a very loyal following of ladies," she added.
Young said Bartlett chose her seasonal lines based on the preferences of local women, and many of them "depended on Becky to let them know when the new fashions came in.
"Becky Yvonne's opened when Highway 54 was only a two-lane road between Forest Park and Jonesboro," said Young. "She was quite a businesswoman for her time, when she opened her boutique, and has been very successful."
Bartlett asked that her type of cancer not to be specified in the newspaper, but noted her diagnosis came in the summer last year. In January, after several unsuccessful rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Bartlett made the decision to close her shop at the end of this month, and participate in a medical study at Emory University.
While positive, Bartlett has faced many challenges. In February, she had surgery to replace her hip socket and had three steel rods placed in one of her legs as the result of fractures.
"I wish I were walking ... that was a setback, but you have a lot of those sometimes," said Bartlett. "It's been a trying thing for all of us," but "I know that God has a plan for me and whatever it is, it's absolutely perfect," she said.
"We've been a team ever since she's been in the world," said her mother. Inez Martin said it has been hard seeing her daughter suffer from cancer, but she said her child has a tremendous support system.