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Milly's on Main Street 
BY: Katarina Diaz

Milly Chiniro rushes into her boutique only slightly out of breath. Her employees standing at the front registers snap their heads to the sound of the door and see her holding the door with one hand and coffee in the other. As she walks through the entrance, Chiniro immediately inhales the store’s strong and fresh signature scent. 

 

“Sorry, sorry, I’m late,” she says as she hands out coffee to her employees. 

 

They smile, amused with the owner’s tardiness.

 

Today, like the rest of the week, has been a busy morning at the stores Chiniro owns. Walking into her own business and getting to witness firsthand how busy it can get isn’t something Milly had planned for herself after graduating from St. Edwards University in Austin.  

She had never taken a business course and didn’t know what the first steps were when opening a business. But now she owns four successful boutiques in the heart of the McAllen.

 

“It was challenging, and I was nervous, but I had all the ganas to do it,” she said. 

 

Chiniro is originally from Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas, and she moved to the U.S. when she turned 15.  She lived in McAllen until she left for Austin for college, and moved to Phoenix after graduating, but eventually, she found her way back home. 

She started her business in McAllen when she was around 28 and had 10 years to build her brand and following. She’ll be turning 38 this year and has three children, ages 4 to 15.

 

Chiniro chose downtown as the location for her boutiques because it’s known for its lively and popular local business scene. To locals, it seems as if the downtown area has remained the same since they can remember. The marketing strategies had continued to unchanged while the community around it becomes modern. 

 

Chiniro’s boutiques are staffed with welcoming employees and environment for the customers to feel relaxed. 

“I want my customers to feel like they’re walking into their closets,” Milly says. “Like they can be themselves here.

General manager Cristal Hurtado at the front of the store.

As Milly walks to the back of her store and into her office, Cristal Hurtado can be seen in her black polo uniform leaning against the counter in the front of the store. 

 

She’s been working at Milly’s for seven years now and has been promoted to general manager. 

 

“It’s like a routine we have and it’s interesting,” Cristal says. “It’s not just coming to one work, it’s basically going to different stores and I like doing that.”

 

In a few minutes she’ll be heading towards Milly’s Crush to check on the employees she’s friendly with and head back to Milly’s before she clocks out. 

 

When she’s made her final trip to Milly’s for the day, she sits to chat with her coworker Alejandra Beltran. They start laughing and discussing where they should go for Alejandra’s bachelorette party, forgetting that Cristal said she was going to leave around 20 minutes ago. 

 

Unlike some of the traditional businesses downtown, Chiniro started using social media early on as a way to get exposure, and it worked for her. 

 

She now has around 95,000 followers on Facebook and is continuing to increase with every post and live stream. 

 

Her social media pages began with photos of herself modeling every clothing item and shoes she sells. A website is currently in the works, but in the meantime, she’ll post every item so customers can buy online, too. 

 

On her Instagram Live videos, she’ll be showcasing some clothes customers are interested in. 

 

Now other businesses downtown, who previously had no social media pages or websites, are slowly following in her footsteps. 

 

The businesses would rely on those in the valley to spread word-of-mouth that McAllen is a good for shopping and know to go downtown for the good deals.

 

McAllen began as a small border town, but it’s turned into a metropolitan destination, which is why she believes the local businesses deserve more recognition and success. 

 

Chiniro reminisces when she first came to McAllen 23 years ago, and how her mom would come as a kid more than 40 years ago.  

 

“It’s crazy because my mom remembers when she was little she used to come to downtown,” Milly says. “It’s always kept that business going, it’s never died.”

Left: Photograph of downtown McAllen, Texas, south on Main Street. Creator unknown. June 2, 1960. Provided by McAllen Public Library.
Right: Main Street McAllen, Texas, March 17, 2023. 

 

Fernanda Sosa was trying on a pair of black platform heels in the back of Milly’s Glam on a Friday afternoon in March. She was sitting on the small black cushioned bench and had her tote bag sitting aside her. 

 

She’s lived in McAllen since she was born, and as she grew up, she could rely on downtown to stay a constant in her life.  

 

“I feel like downtown is so old it’s become a staple of the valley itself,” Sosa said. “Shops down here are different because of how old and how long it’s been here, if you try to open it up in other cities, it doesn’t have that background that gives it more value.”

Fernanda Sosa, 21, leaving Milly’s Glam on Main St. 

 

Sosa says although there’s boutiques in downtown, they’re different because they won’t charge as much compared to other boutiques in other towns.  

 

“There’s more deals than you would find at Walmart or HEB or any other normal retail stores.”

 

Chiniro said she wants to expand. She wants those who are unaware to know what type of local businesses are offered in downtown.

 

Business owners like Chiniro witness people from Mexico come to shop there specifically. They get to shop at a diverse set of businesses; they have food vendors, quinceanera dresses, formal dresses, clothes, shoes, flowers, crafts, watches, perfumes and more. 

 

Milly wanted to sell clothes and shoes that are fashionable and affordable and being located in downtown would be the best place to support that. 

At Milly’s and Milly’s Glam, she mainly sells shoes and a few shirts for original price. At Crush by Milly’s she sells more clothes but at a discount price.

 

Curvy by Milly’s is her plus size shop; she wanted her boutiques to be more inclusive. 

 

As Milly exits the store for the day, she walks out the front doors. She can feel the difference in temperature once she leaves her air-conditioned store and out into the spring heat. 

 

When she leaves, the area near the entrance still holds the smell of their signature scent, making her feel comfortable at the familiar smell she starts and ends her day with.

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