Carmel Valley resident’s new Dank & Dewey belt line makes a statement

By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

Carmel Valley’s Kristen Small wants women to know fun fashion can be a cinch. Her new belt line Dank & Dewey specializes in “jewelry for the waist” — leather belts with statement-making buckles.

“I want to help women feel good and be fashionable, on just a regular day or a night on the town,” Small said. “Women like to feel beautiful and look our best. One of our mottos is ‘Love what you wear.’”

Small is now working with Piazza Carmel’s Fred’s Shoes owner Fred Moreno to create a new line of purses.

Moreno opened Fred’s Shoes about six months ago — for the last four years he had a repair space in the back of Foot Care Systems. The owner sold the store over to him and he was able to fulfill a life-long dream of having his own shop.

Dank & Dewey belts are also available in Head Over Heels in Del Mar Highlands, La Boutique Les Duex in Del Mar, TRE Clothing in La Jolla and several boutiques in Hawaii.

“I’m very positive about the successful direction Dank & Dewey is headed in,” Small said.

A former dental hygienist, last year Small won the marketing competition The VP Contest, earning a $10,000 prize and became the vice president of sales of an energy drink company that eventually dwindled out.

She took her winnings and decided to focus on her passion for fashion. Small had competed in pageants as a teenager and always tailored her own costumes and did the same for her teenage daughter Janelle.

Small wanted to create a unique, high-quality belt line — combining her own design ideas with 100 percent leather.

“I’m inspired by different shapes and colors. I like bling,” Small said.

She currently has seven designs with eye-catching buckles, including turquoise and silver, a copper foil look and one a sparkling sun.

Small is also working to perfect her Dank & Dewey “waistline cinchers”—an accessory that can cinch a baggy- fitting shirt stylishly in the back to create a more figure-flattering look.

Now with Moreno on board, she’s looking forward to exploring all the design possibilities of purses.

“It’s exciting to work with Fred, his is the first store I have my belts in,” Small said, acknowledging his creative and skilled talent in creating custom shoes lends itself nicely to creating custom leather bags.

At Fred’s Shoes, Moreno makes custom leather boots and orthopedic shoes, taking molds of people’s feet and creating the shoes to the customer’s specification. Fred has plenty of experience to back his craft—he learned the art from his great grandfather in Italy when he was about 3 years old.

“He was the best shoemaker in World War II Italy,” Moreno said.

Moreno said he loves leather craftsmanship and loves pleasing his loyal customers which makes the purse line such a fun new venture.

Their first collaboration is a shiny blue leather bag with snakeskin and tassel details that matches a unique blue leather Dank & Dewey belt. The pair hopes to focus on the purses locally and in Hawaii, capitalizing on the tourist market.

Each Dank & Dewey belt comes in a keepsake box, lined with purple satin. Small’s husband Troy wrote the story behind the Dank & Dewey logo crest and it’s written around the box—the story details a girl whose dreams all came true. Small said when reading her husband’s words, the story sounded eerily familiar.

“He’s the love of my life and he’s been an angel and an inspiration of encouragement to me,” she said with a smile.

To visit their online store, visit

  1. Fred’s Shoes is holding a Grand Opening celebration Oct. 21-23. Visit Fred’s Shoes at 3860 Valley Centre Drive, suite 408. For more information call Dank & Dewey at (800) 795-6805 or Fred’s at (858) 847-7593.