When she was young, Amy Valadez didn't get to wear a lot of expensive on-trend clothes. Her mother abandoned the family, leaving her father to raise Valadez along with her sisters and brother on his own.
Growing up in Southwest Detroit, Valadez says they didn't have a lot of shopping options. Their best bet was often to drive to a mall in a nearby suburb, and even that plan wasn't foolproof.
After work, her dad often didn't have the time or energy to make the trip, let alone the money to purchase expensive clothing. But, Valadez says she never wanted him to feel bad about not being able to provide them with those little luxuries.
Out of that experience, though, was born a dream. Valadez says she knew from a young age that, if ever given the chance, she would open a shoe store in the neighborhood. And while she now resides in Dearborn Heights, she is indeed the owner of a women's boutique on Vernor Highway in Southwest Detroit that sells on-trend clothing, shoes, and accessories at bargain prices.
Though she'd fantasised about being a proprietess for years, the reality came together rather quickly — in fact, it was kind of a surprise.
Valadez says her boyfriend, Ricardo Rodriguez, signed a lease for an old cell phone shop just down the street from Clark Park and told her he'd dubbed the new endeavor "Amy's Shoes."
That was three years ago, and despite admittedly knowing nothing about running a women's boutique, Valadez and Rodriguez have managed to create a successful business that fills a need within the community.
To some, trendy sandals and tank tops might seem trivial, but for the undocumented immigrants who reside in the neighborhood, the store is a godsend.
"Some of them are afraid to drive far because they don't have papers," Valadez says. But, the store is a close drive or even walk within the community and most items are under $25, making them easily affordable for women on a budget.
The shopkeeper says customers are astounded by her low prices, but that's always been her number one business initiative. She loves seeing mothers shopping with their daughters, finding cute pieces they can afford to bring home.
While she initially planned to only sell shoes, Valadez quickly branched out to include clothing, jewelry, and beauty products. She and Rodriguez regularly travel to California where they shop at wholesale warehouses — the same ones that sell to stores like Forever 21. Often, Valadez says she will have the same pieces in her store as that massive fast fashion retailer, but at much lower prices.
"I never want anyone to feel like I did growing up," she says. "I always said if I had a store I would so make it affordable. That was my number one thing."
Stop by the shop — you can't miss it by the way, thanks to the bright pink sign and a stream of banners that fly over the parking lot — and you'll see what Valadez means. Her store is stocked with hand-selected items like printed T-shirts, patterned shorts, and midi dresses and they come in a range of sizes that make the shop accessible to all women.
When we popped in last week, Valadez was pumping music through a speaker and her door was propped open. The feeling in the store was joyful, making the prospect of picking up something fun and cheap even more enjoyable.