The sweet scent of African freesia wafting through the store and onto the street entices visitors into the carefully decorated eclectic space that is Betty Belts. Cradled in a corner just off the beaten path in Downtown Ventura, the cozy yet vibrant ocean-inspired accessories shop, owned and run by Donna Von Hoesslin, is replete with beautiful and unique jewelry and accessories — ceramic necklaces, metal pendants, leather cuffs, colorful scarves, elaborate belts, cute beanies, intricate hairpins and more. It’s a delightful bazaar of one-of-a-kind, handmade treasures.
Established as an online store back in 2003, Betty Belts, also known as Betty B., is older than its current brick and mortar location. It began as a wholesale and online brand of belts in Santa Cruz, with a later addition of jewelry. “The brand existed before I opened the store,” says Von Hoesslin. Operating out of a warehouse on the basis of win-win — people, environment efficiency and women’s surfing, Betty B.’s promise has been to show up in the community while offering a unique and accessible product.
A surfer herself for more than 10 years, Von Hoesslin finds her inspiration in the beach and in her time spent out in the ocean. It was her passion for surfing that caused her trepidation about opening a retail store. “I didn’t originally want a physical location,” she admits. “I was afraid I would not have time to surf, have a life.” Her boyfriend and biggest supporter, David Pu’u, Santa Barbara native and celebrated photographer and filmmaker, encouraged her to get the space. Von Hoesslin took her board out to sea and found her answer in the place that inspired it all to begin with. She opened Betty Belts in 2007. “It was the best decision I ever made.”
Since then, Betty B. has become a hub of connectedness in the community. Offering an array of uniquely designed jewelry by local artists and artisans from Bali, it remains true to its original promise: to contribute to the community and build relationship through a unique product. Work by local artists including that of the skillful Hands of Stone, a group of women who make eco-friendly ceramic necklaces with ocean-influenced elements, Kathleen Fitzgerald’s one-of-a-kind, exquisitely crafted, hand-made earrings; Guy Q. Goods’ metal jewelry for men and women; Lise Solvang’s cozy alpaca and bamboo knits; Tiki Tony ceramic tiki necklaces; and David Pu’u’s attention-demanding prints that serve as the main wall décor in the shop.
Women are especially responsive to Von Hoesslin’s enriching collaboration with the artists, not only the female patrons but all the women who become interconnected through Betty Belts. There is a tangible female bond that begins with Von Hoesslin as the connector and is often sparked by chance meetings at Betty Belts. “I introduce women who come to the shop to each other, and cool things happen,” she says. One particular connection is mothers and daughters.
“They wear the same jewelry. I dig it,” she says. Often she will find the mothers coming back to the store to purchase a new piece because their daughters are wearing theirs. The common faux-pas of being caught wearing the same accessory is instead a thrilling commonality among her female customers.
A recent collaboration between Von Hoesslin and what is affectionately knows as Team Betty, a group of female surfers who have become essential in the promotion and marketing of Betty Belts, resulted in the personal design of a piece of jewelry by each of four local sufers: Mary Osborne, Jeannette Ortiz, Hailey Partridge and Sierra Partridge.
Together with Von Hoesslin and Pu’u, they traveled to Bali, where they worked and executed this creative project.
In addition to working with local artists, Von Hoesslin employs several artisans from Bali, where most of the pieces are made. Having worked for close to seven years with the same artisans, Donna has established a work ethic based on fairness, skill, good quality and, most important for her, community…