We had the good fortune of connecting with Marlene Dunlevy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marlene, what’s the most important thing you’ve done for your children?
I started Opal Atlas because of my daughter Beatrix. When she was six months old, I realized that I needed to follow my dreams in order to be a role model for her. In the past, I would often talk myself out of things and I do not want to pass this trait on to my daughter. The crazy thing is that I think having a baby and how much that limited my free time gave me the structure I needed to get my business off the ground. There is no time to dawdle – just do!
What should our readers know about your business?
I launched Opal Atlas this January with a line of souvenirs for Joshua Tree. I have lived here for over five years and always felt like we could use cuter souvenirs so I decided to design my own! My business has grown so much in the last five months. I now have two souvenir stands – one in Mojave Flea in Palm Springs and another in Twentynine Palms at High Desert Daydream. And three of the coolest shops in the high desert carry my products – Pioneertown General Store, Wine & Rock Shop in Yucca Valley, and The Station in Joshua Tree.
But beyond all of this, the most exciting thing about starting business is how it has connected me to the community. At the beginning of the year, I made friends with a few other local makers and within a matter of a couple weeks, we launched a new weekly outdoor market called MERCADO Joshua Tree. I have made more friends and met more people in town in the last five months than I had in the last five years. One of my new friends, Joan Horne, an illustrator who recently decamped from LA to Yucca Valley is now a collaborator; our first product together, a bandana featuring local flora and fauna is a runaway hit. We are launching a Palm Springs bandana very soon which I think people will love.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If a friend was visiting LA for a week, I would definitely encourage them to take a little excursion to the Mojave Desert. A classic trip to the high desert would include drinks at the Red Dog Saloon and a meal at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown. A visit to the national park is a must – my favorite thing is to enter through 29 Palms and exit in Joshua Tree. Pick up burritos at Mexican Street Food or some tasty treats at Campbell Hill Bakery in 29 for an instant picnic lunch. Hike the Split Rock loop and find a rock to sit on and eat your lunch. On your way out, check out The Station in Joshua Tree, the best souvenir shop ever and then get a bottle of wine or three at the Wine & Rock Shop and have pizza at Pie for the People next door. Make sure to leave plenty of time to just chill because that’s typically what the desert calls people to do. And hopefully don’t forget to grab an Opal Atlas souvenir while you’re at it! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am going to give my shoutout to growing up in a boring city because it makes traveling that much sweeter. My boring city was Indianapolis whose nickname is literally Nap Town. When I was a kid, souvenirs were proof you did something, you went somewhere. I didn’t visit the ocean until I was 10 years old and I can still remember being in awe of the massive souvenir shops in Myrtle Beach more than I can remember seeing the ocean for the first time. That feeling of wanting something to bring back, something to hold onto is still with me even though my travels now are more likely to take me to Tokyo than South Carolina. And yeah, I’m sure even kids who grew up in NYC may like souvenirs but they probably didn’t need them quite as much as me.