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Owner Kelly Walton talks about importance of genuine connection with customers and overcoming obstacles as an entrepreneur

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - Kelly Walton of Whiskey Darlin flashes one of her smiles as she proudly displays some of her summer merchandise.

On the corner of Main and Fourth streets, the windows display an eclectic collection of clothing and accessories for women of all ages.

Kelly Walton, owner of Whiskey Darlin, prides herself in providing outstanding customer service, and her smile is one of the first things to greet clients as they walk through the door.

"Everybody has a story. Everybody is fighting inside — maybe something at work, or they are struggling with something," emphasized Walton. "We all are. We are human beings. I think it is so important to greet everybody with a smile and genuinely care about them and get to know them. Talk to them and find out a little bit about their story — some people will tell you. You can learn and grow from each other, and that has been huge. I feel like I connect with everyone who walks through the door in some way or another."

She said that she gets to know them as a human being and not just a customer buying a piece of clothing or jewelry.

"I feel like anymore in life, we are lacking that — the compassion and caring. To me, that is something that shouldn't be forgotten," Walton added.

She pointed out that with so many people hungry for human connection after COVID and being confined to their homes, it is healthy for everyone involved to have the human connection and a friendly smile. Walton noted that she made many good friends through her business in the past two years.

"I honestly believe that is what has gotten me through COVID and being successful in what I am doing — I genuinely care. A genuine, warm smile makes all the difference in the world."

Walton began her retail career as a vendor at The Vintage Cottage, in the midst of COVID.

"I was hesitant, but excited at the same time," Walton said of her humble beginnings. "I didn't know what the restrictions of COVID was going to do to the businesses around here — I had no idea, but it was a passion of mine that I wanted to follow through with."

Walton went to the Oregonian's Credit Union to get a small personal loan to get her business started.

"They are the most amazing women. They support you in anything you do. They will do their best to help you out with anything. They are amazing women helping other women," Walton said of the local credit union.

Her business began to grow quickly, and after eight months, she began looking for her own business store front. Walton found a space in the back of Sweet Willow & Company, with the gracious help of owner, Somerli McLain. She rented a space in the back of the store approximately seven months.

"She will help any other woman out to grow, and she gives you the opportunity to showcase yourself and your product. She is amazing," said Walton of McLain.

Then, an incredible opportunity came available in her current location, at 395 N. Main Street. She gained a space that has allowed her to spread out and grow. She is located on the corner of Fourth and Main streets.

Walton emphasized that she has encountered several hurdles, especially with merchandise. She offers clothing and accessories for all age ranges.

"It is a challenge, and I had to really sit down when I did my ordering and really think about what I am going to order and how many I am going to order of this and that. It is putting all the pieces together, so I have a little something for everybody," she said of her diverse clientele.

She has also found it to be a challenge to accommodate her customers as more people do not work in an office. She has found a need to offer more casual and fun clothing. She said that in the summer, she offers clothing for clients who are looking for apparel for weddings, concerts and vacations. She has offered bathing suits for the first time.

"There are a lot of people working from home since COVID. That has been a hurdle."

Walton is adamant about offering strong and heartfelt customer service.

"One thing I feel with my business, is I do it from the heart, and I am genuine," she added. "I love, love, what I do. It makes me feel good when people come into your store, and they have an event to go to or a birthday party or a gift for someone. They are putting their heart and soul into something also, and it brings me a lot of joy to make other women feel wonderful about themselves."

One of the events that Walton thoroughly enjoys is offering a ladies night once per month. She brings in a mobile cocktail bar, and she does raffles. Her next event will be Thursday, Aug. 18, from 5 to 8 p.m.

"People have so much fun at those events, and sometimes women will bring their husbands along, and they have just as great a time as the rest of the women in there," she concluded. "It makes my heart happy to see people out laughing and having a good time, because for so long, I think people didn't do that. It's amazing to see how much fun people have there (at her ladies night event)."


Whiskey Darlin

Owner: Kelly Walton

Address: 395 N. Main Street

Phone: 541-279-0497

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