Meet Your Neighbor: Val Vera
Val Vera is the Retail Manager at our Legacy West location and we figured as we begin to reopen our stores on June 3rd, that it would be nice for you to meet one of the people leading our teams. She is a go-getter, hard worker, and is a relentless optimist on our team and we want you to get to know her a little better. If you want to know what makes Neighborhood Goods special, just talk to her. She has a way of embodying the care and ingenuity we strive for as a brand and a knack for creatively leading her team in the right direction.
On top of learning about her wonderfully handsome dog and how she approaches managing our Legacy West location, Val shares some of her top picks from Neighborhood Goods. Read on and get to know one of our happiest neighbors:
What are some things that make you, you? Like what would make your friends go “Oh that’s so Val” if they heard it?
Tell us about your family!
We’re really small. I have a half brother who lives in West Texas. So, really the only family I’m around are my mom and dad. We’re extremely close. They’re my best friends and they had me when they were really young so I think that really instilled a good work ethic [in me]. I grew up knowing that you have to work for things if you want them, they won’t just be given to you. I’ve always been around that and their good support system. It makes me realize that at the end of the day, they’re the only ones that I have. We don’t have this huge family that we can rely on or if we are fighting, [we have to remember] we only have each other.
I am also in a long term relationship with my boyfriend, Logan (going on ten years! yay!), and then we have a little dog, name’s Jack.
I hear Jack’s not a big fan of social distancing…
Oh, we finally went for a car ride and he was quiet the entire time. He really comes across as a little human boy. I know a lot of people probably think that about their dogs but in every way, he is like living with a thirteen year old. [laughing] He can be moody and temperamental and so sweet but then the next second he’s yelling at me.
He was a year old when we adopted him. Actually, he was an hour away from being put to sleep when the animal shelter shared a picture of him on Facebook. So, Logan and I were like, “Lets go get him!”
He had been turned down by a lot of families because they thought he was too energetic. They thought he was beautiful but they just couldn’t manage him with all of his energy… so then we saved him! And dealt with all of that energy for a while and now he’s kind of calmed down but he’s still very stubborn.
This has been a go-to accessory for me. I’ve been referencing the different stylings featured by Devin on IG.
How did you first hear about Neighborhood Goods?
Last summer, one of my best friends who loves exploring new and local businesses, told me that there was this really cool store that I had to go see. So we met at Legacy West and ate some food at Legacy Hall and afterwards we started walking the long stretch to Neighborhood Goods at the end of Legacy West. Honestly, I had never even walked that far because I thought the only things in the area were restaurants. But we came into the store and I immediately fell in love with the brands, the energy. The team member, Norbs, was the first person who greeted us when we walked into the store and told us the story. The fact that there were a lot of employees around [to talk to us] and they didn’t seem distracted or too busy was really nice because you could tell it was busy but no one was too busy for customer interaction. I loved everything.
This has been a really fun book to get inspired by. I’ve been planning for future trips and using this as a guide for spotting at local businesses, outdoor experiences, and hidden gems throughout several different cities.
Had you worked in retail before?
Yeah, at the time [of first visiting the store], I was actually managing at Anthropology in the Northpark Mall. I helped open up their home department center where we had a home stylist that would decorate rooms for your home or office.
How have you used your prior management experience in your role at NG?
I definitely try to take things that I’ve learned from procedures or the managers I’ve had or the coworkers I’ve worked with and [use that knowledge in this job]. Whether that’s a positive experience or an opportunity [to grow], I’ve been able to see what works or what needs improvement. It’s interesting too because when I started at Neighborhood Goods I felt like naturally there were a lot of things that were similar [to my other retail jobs] but the question was- how do we make this better for functionality and the customer experience?
Kinfield is a woman-owned business, which alone is awesome! But I really love that Nichole, founder and CEO, encourages outdoor recreation by using products that protect our bodies, while being safe for the environment.
Some of our themes as a company are accountability, experimentation, and heart. How do you weave accountability into daily life at NG?
I take a lot of pride in the fact that I want to make sure I’m doing something before I give that expectation to other people. Even though I might not be perfect at it, what matters more is that I’m doing it. I think that’s important to see in a leader. It’s something that I’ve noticed or has been missing in some leaders I’ve had before. So, when working with a team, especially one as big as the one we have here, it’s important for me, as a leader, to show my team if I can do something then they can do it too.
You are someone who puts a lot of thought behind the things you buy or recommend to customers in the store. What are some of your guiding principles for when you decide to purchase something or decide to support a brand?
Towards the end of last year, [I started asking myself] “Am I buying something that is going to last me long term or am I buying something I will cycle through?” For example: Am I buying one pricey shirt that’s going to last me the lifetime of five cheaper shirts? I’ve really been trying to put a purpose behind my purchase and also questioning what I am putting my money towards and what I’m supporting. I want the brands and the companies and the people I’m supporting to genuinely be good people that are focusing on making a better world and treat their employees with kindness and a good heart. So often we buy something out of convenience for ourselves without doing the research on where brands come from and what they put their money and energy towards.
Shopping with a purpose [is the first thing I focus on] and the second is how they treat their customers because those are the people that help support the business. And overall the customer experience but I feel like that goes hand in hand with everything else. I’ve noticed that the brands that really direct their money towards a better world and focus on their customer, a positive customer experience normally follows.
I wear my Atoms almost every day, all day! They’re incredibly comfortable and offer quarter sizes, which I haven’t seen from another shoe brand.
What is your primary goal when you talk to people who visit the store?
I always think about trust. That’s really my number one goal: building trust. Of course, I want to share what Neighborhood Goods is and the stories of the brands we feature, but I think that is all built upon trust. If I am sharing about Neighborhood Goods, I always like to end the conversation on something I've tried or my personal experience with a brand. I would mention a Faherty and say something about a new shirt I just bought from them. I’m not going to lie to you, I’m going to share something that I personally love. Creating that environment throughout their shopping experience and [telling them] details about a product works and it’s lifespan all build trust. I want people to be able to leave the store and know that if they have a question they can call us, ask for me, and know I will lead them in the right direction.
We’re glad you got to meet Val and we’re excited to introduce you to more of the neighborhood in the future :)