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In the heart of Downtown Rogers sits a little shop with windows decorated for whatever season we’re in, whatever holiday may be just around the corner. Visitors who step into the shop are instantly transported into a world of beautifully made handbags, totes, cosmetic bags, clutches, beach bags, scarves, baby blankets, handmade jewelry, candles, and more. Valere Rene Handbags & Totes is a must stop shop in Downtown Rogers.
The back of the shop holds the heart of the business… the design and sewing area. This is where the magic happens. Visitors get a glimpse into the design and work that goes into every single piece that Valere Rene creates. Sewing machines line the wall, and their soft, quiet hum fills the room.
I recently had a chance to visit with Valere Rene, Owner and Designer of Valere Rene Handbags & Totes. We sat down to chat about her life, her work, and about the future of her business.
One of the first things I noticed about Valere, as she began to talk, was how humble she is.
“When people make a big deal of who I am, I’m like, ‘I’m still just Val.’”
She began to tell me about her years growing up as a hometown girl, riding her horse bareback by the creek, helping out on the farm.
Valere knew in high school that she wanted to do something creative. Her senior year, she had the chance to visit New York City where she was introduced to the art of designing. She knew this was what she wanted to do with her life.
Valere eventually married and had two beautiful daughters, the realization of another dream. Her husband and children were #1, and for the time being, she began to build a successful career in dentistry.
When a devastating 2-year illness left Valere unable to return to her former job, she wanted to do something that would help make ends meet; so, she began to sew. She made back-to-school bags for her teenage daughters and started sharing photos of the things she created on social. People began to notice. She planned a “Shop for a Cause” event, which in turn, led to even more growth and an influx of custom orders.
Her husband encouraged her to think about her vision for where the business was headed. It would seem he was onto something because even Valere’s hairdresser, also a very good friend, began to talk to her about the business. Not only did she give Valere a makeover, transforming both her look and how she felt about herself, she also introduced her to another friend, who happened to be an investor. Valere met with that investor, and the rest is history.
She knew right away what space she wanted. “I’ve seen this Downtown just flourish, and I’ve also seen it a ghost town… We frequent Downtown as much as we can. This is the heart of Rogers, I feel. This is what I remember as a kid. It’s close to where I live, it’s convenient.”
When asked to think about who’s inspired her life and her work, Valere tried to talk without crying. I tried to listen without crying too. She began to tell me about her late dad, who taught her “about work ethic, about being yourself and being true to yourself…” Then she talked about her mom, whom Valere credited as being “the strongest woman I know.” The year that Valere became sick, her mother was also diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and 6 months later, bi-lateral breast cancer. When Valere talks about her family, you can tell that family is so important to her; you can see how much she values and loves them.
Of course, I couldn’t leave without asking Valere which product, out of her entire collection, she loves the most. It didn’t take her long to answer… the jewelry tote. The reason? The creation of this piece was a pivotal moment, a turning point in Valere’s designing career. Designing that piece led her to truly believe in herself as a designer.
Talking with Valere, you just can’t help but be inspired and motivated. Dreams really can and do come true. Life isn’t easy, in any sense of the word, but faith makes all things possible.
“We have so much to look forward to in the future for Valere Rene and its brand. It’s a family affair. I never felt like I was where I was supposed to be. I always feel like God has a huge part in this journey of mine. My efforts and my ability were there in dentistry, but my heart’s here. When you go through something that I went through, you see life so much differently. I take every day like it’s my last. I don’t feel like I come to work every day. It’s not all about me being the designer or me being the business owner. It’s just me enjoying what I’m doing. I still can’t believe I get to do this.”
Details for Your Visit
Valere Rene Handbags & Totes is located at 210 S. 1st St. in Rogers, Arkansas. Hours are Tuesday thru Friday, 10am to 6pm and Saturday, 10am to 5pm. You can also order online, but I definitely recommend visiting the shop in person.
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