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Risk fashioned the future for Albuquerque woman

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After losing her longtime job, Dara Ambriz took a leap of faith and became co-owner of Runway Apparel, a clothing boutique in Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

After losing her longtime job, Dara Ambriz took a leap of faith and became co-owner of Runway Apparel, a clothing boutique in Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

It happens.

You wake up one day and everything changes. Companies downsize. Families implode. Houses burn. The universe pulls the proverbial rug out from under your feet.

For Dara Ambriz, the rug was her longtime job as human resources and community relations representative with Cardinal Health Inc., a pharmaceutical and medical distribution company she had been employed with for nearly 16 years. Cardinal had been transferring most of its Albuquerque operations elsewhere since September 2012, but in August 2013 it transferred Ambriz out the door.

Ambriz, who had been unwilling to move with the company out of Albuquerque, was 40, a wife and mother of two teenagers and, for the first time in a long time, a woman without a job, without a career path and without a clue as to what she ought to do next.

“It was scary and confusing,” she said. “It wasn’t fun.”

But the universe is a funny thing, and sometimes when it pulls out the rug it also turns on a light. You just need to see it shining.

Luckily for Ambriz, she did.

Ambriz, you need to know, is something of a fashionista. She admits to possessing more than 100 pairs of shoes.

That’s Carrie “Sex and the City” Bradshaw numbers.

“I loved fashion even as a kid,” she said. “I wanted to be a fashion designer. I loved the aesthetic of it. But since I never left Albuquerque, I figured I would just love it from afar.”

Which for most of her 9-to-5 corporate life was just fine.

As fate (i.e., the universe) would have it, the same week she lost her job she ran into Lori Medik, owner of Runway Apparel, a small fashion boutique that since it opened in 2009 has consistently been named by readers of Albuquerque the Magazine as the best place to buy women’s casual wear.

The women had become friends during a previous charitable event both had helped orchestrate for their respective businesses.

Just as Ambriz’s world was darkening, Medik brightened it by bestowing Ambriz with a ticket to attend Fashion Week that September.

Medik knew that among the items on Ambriz’s bucket list was the glitzy fashion event, held twice a year in New York City, in which the world’s top designers show off their latest collections.

“I was blown away,” Ambriz said. “A month after the worst news, I was living the dream.”

And then something strange happened that blew her even farther.

Ambriz said she was walking along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan when a woman stopped her.

“I don’t mean to interrupt you,” the woman said. “But you have this amazing aura.”

Which, being in Manhattan, meant either Ambriz was about to get mugged or propositioned.

Style consultant Yvette Stanford, left, and Dara Ambriz arrange dresses at Runway Apparel in preparation for today’s grand re-opening. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Style consultant Yvette Stanford, left, and Dara Ambriz arrange dresses at Runway Apparel in preparation for today’s grand re-opening. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

And yet, Ambriz listened.

The woman, who called herself a psychic, told Ambriz that she had a creative side and a community service side and that she was going to go into a business that would allow her to shine in both. The woman handed her a card and offered to do a further reading.

That never happened, at least not in person. Ambriz caught a plane back to Albuquerque the next day. She did speak once again with the psychic by phone, but the more important conversation was the one she had with Medik.

“She says to me, ‘I’m not sure I want to continue with the boutique. Why don’t you take it over?’ ” Ambriz recalled. “But I told her what a wonderful place she had created, a wonderful community space that was doing charitable things. I couldn’t take it over. I had no small-business experience, no retail background.”

But, Medik countered, Ambriz had good energy.

A good aura.

The light flickered on.

With the blessings of her husband of 20 years and in spite of the dubious economy, Ambriz agreed to become a co-owner of Runway Apparel with Medik.

Ambriz jumped into the world of fashion with both stylishly appointed feet.

“It’s been a life-changing experience,” she said. “I get up every morning scared and excited.”

And happy. Business, she said, has been good, buoyed by a loyal customer base. Today marks the store’s grand reopening to officially introduce Ambriz to the community, to unveil the store’s remodel and the addition of a casual men’s line. As always, the store features clothing with a price-point target of $100, plus jewelry, handbags and skin care products, some made by local artisans.

Both women say they plan to continue to use the store to help charitable causes when they can – a way to combine creative and community service sides, just as the psychic of Manhattan had foretold.

Ambriz is not one to dabble much in the cosmic kooky stuff, but what she knows is that sometimes the universe provides the right path, if you are willing to walk it.

And like a strutting runway model, she is doing just that.

“What I’ve learned is that it’s OK to take a risk,” she said. “It’s going to be new, it’s going to be scary, but if you find something you love it’s going to be worth a try.”

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, jkrueger@abqjournal.com or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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