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Bearta Alchacar stays busy.
The owner of Petale, the boutique flower shop located on Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh, Alchacar immigrated to the U.S. more than 30 years ago, escaping the war in her home country of Lebanon. Alchacar made the long journey with her younger sister for the promise of a new life and the opportunity to study business management at NC State.
At first, simple things like knowing where to go to buy basics were a challenge.
“The first three years living in America were the hardest,” Alchacar says. “Learning the culture, the language, and, back then, Raleigh was so much smaller than today, it was just very difficult. My younger sister was living with my brother outside of Mebane, but I was alone in Raleigh, trying to navigate and find my way.”
“It was not like how the movies portrayed the USA,” Alchacar recalls with a laugh.
But upon graduation, Alchacar says she knew Raleigh was home and where she wanted to be for the long term. She married, found a job at an injection molding company and had three boys.
After leaving her job to raise her children, Alchacar says she realized she wasn’t meant to stay at home full-time. She started teaching fitness classes at the YMCA and says she loved connecting with other women, fitness and the fast-growing Zumba craze. Then, as her boys were growing up, Alchacar found a wedding venue that caught her eye. She bought it and soon was helping plan events, decorating and flower arranging.
Eventually, Alchacar sold her event space to the town of Apex. Her love for event planning and international travel led her to the next entrepreneurial adventure, with flower arranging as the centerpiece: She would open a boutique shop, Petale, where clients could find happiness and joy a couple of flowers at a time.
“Having traveled through Europe and Spain, I would see all of the little stands with flowers for sale where you could purchase a few stems,” Alchacar says. “This is what gave me the idea for downtown Raleigh needing a place where people could grab just a few flowers to brighten their day.”
Along with running her businesses, Alchacar has been a prolific community advocate, volunteer and fundraiser. In 2010, President Obama recognized Alchacar with the President’s Volunteer Award for raising money for UNICEF, which only 200 Americans are honored with annually. Alchacar also founded downtown Raleigh’s popular International Festival that takes place each year on Fayetteville Street, which she still helps to plan. Along with her role as a mother, Alchacar says serving as the festival’s founder and planner is one of her proudest achievements.
“These two [roles] are my pride and joy,” she says.
Alchacar now mentors international students who come to study at NC State, helping them adapt to American culture, as she remembers how hard it was when she first came to the U.S. She has also donated more than $20,000 to the university’s International Studies program.
Clearly, Alchacar isn’t afraid of hard work. Her parents died when she was only 5 years old and she says this experience taught her about taking care of herself, making sure to look at the bright side, finding happiness in every day and being grateful for opportunities.
“Never give up. Always, always find the joy in all the things,” Alchacar says by way of advice to young entrepreneurs. “Tomorrow is a new day. Hopefully, one filled with lots and lots of flowers.”
In this series, Raleigh Magazine takes a look at some of the women in our city who are getting the job done.
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