Charity Jewell Walter’s North Carolina drawl rings clear as she talks about her beginnings as a designer and business owner when she was 16 years old.
Now, just six years later, her clothing line and business, Dainty Jewell’s, has grown — and she’s expanding to a 6,000 square foot warehouse in La Grande.
When Walter was a teen, as a homeschool student, she wanted to make some extra money, she said. She had learned how to sew from her mother and decided to start designing headbands, shoe clips and small accessories. Her father was a traveling minister and she was able to travel across the country and sell her accessories.
That was the genesis of her success.
“I went to several social gatherings and people would see the items I made. I had started to refashion vintage (clothing) pieces, and people would ask me, ‘Why don’t you start doing retail?’” she said.
Walter would get that question over and over. She became so tired of hearing it that she promised in two weeks, she’d have a new clothing line launched on Facebook.
“I put out 10 pieces for that clothing line and the demand got so great, people wanted to buy them over and over,” Walter said.
And that was all before she was 18 years old.
When she completed her schooling and was thinking about whether to go to college or start a business, she decided to put her whole heart into Dainty Jewell’s.
And she’s been doing it ever since.
Now, at 23 years old, she has grown out of previous locations for her business because of her success.
“The fact that God has brought this talent and made it into a big company and now I have a 6,000 square foot building — it blows me away. I’m still in shock,” she said.
She describes her clothing line as modest, but with a classic and vintage look. Sleeves to the elbows, dresses below the knee. But with an elegance.
“They are like the classy look of Jacqueline Kennedy,” Walter said of her clothes.
While the clothes are modest enough for many religious organizations to feel comfortable with, she said the vintage look is coming back to the fashion world.
“The New York fashion week is (last) week, and it’s amazing the styles that are coming back,” she said. “They say what goes around comes around. I feel like it’s definitely coming back — the looks from the 1940s and 1950s.”
Walter said she designs about 75 percent of what’s shown on her website, with the other portion coming from boutiques with a similar fashion design that Dainty Jewell’s embodies.
While her clothing line is all online right now, once the warehouse is complete and everything is ready, she’s going to launch a retail space. She said she’s hoping for May or June for a grand opening.
This is all surreal to her still though.
“I am so excited because, first of all, I was going to be a dental hygienist and thought that since I was 11 or 12 years old. I never imagined I would be owning a company,” she said.
The future is also bright with plans to launch a bridal collection.
“I have several goals we’re not able to accomplish because we’re packed at the space we’re at right now,” she said of her warehouse on Jefferson Avenue.
Her husband, Jess Walter, was born and raised in La Grande. The couple reside here and plan to stay here.
The biggest challenge she has faced with Dainty Jewell’s is outgrowing her space.
“We get a new spot and we’ve already outgrown it,” Walter said of the numerous locations she’s had in the past that have just become too small for her business. “In a small town, there’s not a lot of places to grow. It’s probably the biggest struggle.”
Walter will be moving to a warehouse in the La Grande Business and Technology Park — about twice the size of where her business is currently located.
“I’m so excited to be in La Grande and working here and connecting with everybody,” Walter said. “I’m so excited because La Grande is amazing and there are so many opportunities here. This is our home.”