From teacher to retail mogul
BY SABRA STAFFORD
Darlene Dover didn’t set out for a career in fashion, but rather got her training in education.
However, it was those lessons she sought to instill in her young students, particularly those on kindness and self-esteem, that have helped her succeed as the owner of Envy Fine Clothing stores in the Central Valley.
“The people that work for me have had a lot of negative work experiences where they weren’t appreciated and I take pride in that they are appreciated and we don’t allow bullying and we build each other up,” Dover said. “My girls are kind to everybody. Every single girl who works for me represents who I am. Everyone is welcome here.”
Dover credits that focus on creating a positive work environment and delivering exceptional customer service for helping build up her business over the years.
Dover opened her first shop in Atwater in 2008. From the beginning it was a store that carried fashion for women, men and babies, but it was also something more than that.
“Moms would come in that hadn’t gotten out of the house in a while or didn’t want to get dressed up and they would come in and we would just talk,” Dover said. “I had a train table, a bean bag, a swing and a baby section all set up and they could let their children play with my son. The moms would shop and enjoy their time out. It just became an environment where moms could come and socialize.”
Business was booming at Envy’s and it wasn’t long before Dover expanded to Turlock, which was then followed with shops opening in Modesto, Merced, and Riverbank.
Dover’s growth in the retail market comes at a time when it’s harder for brick and mortar stores to thrive, and she puts it down to adaptability.
“When I opened the first store I was carrying lines that had higher price points,” Dover said.
“Then I started looking at what my customers were wearing when they came into the store and started making adjustments. Now we carry items at many competitive price points and even offer layaway. I was very open-minded when it came time to make changes. You have to be adaptable and learn from your failures and successes.”