Cathy Jett is the assistant business editor at The Free Lance-Star, and specializes in covering the area's retail scene.
New Fredericksburg shop pampers brides
BY CATHY JETT
PICKING the perfect wedding gown can be a daunting task for brides.
But a newly opened shop in downtown Fredericksburg is focusing on making bridal gown shopping an experience to remember.
Co-owner Wendy Rivera and her assistant, Amy Rinker, not only help each customer find the dress of her dreams at Ava Laurénne Bride, they offer tips on dealing with a gown’s intricacies, such as a corset, and suggest appropriate accessories.
“It’s not like going to the Gap and pulling on a pair of shorts,” Rivera said. “It’s like an old-school dress shop.”
Ava Laurénne, located in the Galleria at 907 Caroline St., also offers what it calls “The Princess Treatment,” which is designed to make the bride feel pampered, special and loved.
The $300 package includes an after-hours appointment for the bride and any number of guests, valet parking, a private consultation for a custom-made veil and/or accessories, beverages and a number of unique touches.
“What I’ve been telling brides is that we work with family and friends to work out specific surprises for you,” said Rivera, who has a background in music and theater. “Frankly, what I love about this from my end is that it’s a huge, creative outlet for me.”
Possibilities range from having the guests bring notes saying what the bride means to them to unexpectedly arranging for an out-of-town relative to be there to asking the groom to send over a bouquet.
“I’ve been to bridal showers and I hate playing games,” Rivera said. “People are trying their doggonedest to relate. I want to help them get their thoughts out to the bride and fan the flames of their creativity to express their love.”
That kind of personal touch is something Rivera, who started working in bridal shops while she was in college, said is missing in many of the bridal salons she’s visited. And it’s proved popular so far. All slots for the princess treatment this month have been filled.
Rivera, who has worked in several bridal shops in Florida and South Carolina, moved to her husband’s hometown of Fredericksburg four years ago. She spotted a “For Lease” sign for a space at the Galleria that had originally been the stage when the building was a theater. She was smitten by its 30-foot ceiling, Palladian window and spiral staircase, and thought it should be a bridal salon.
Her sister, Christy Stutzman, encouraged her to open one there herself, and became her business partner and co-owner of Ava Laurénne. The salon is named after Rivera’s daughter.
The shop, which opened last week, carries wedding gowns by four designers and is having trunk shows by two of them, Justin Alexander and La Sposa, through this weekend. Brides get a 10 percent discount if they purchase one of the 18 designs each designer is featuring. Bridal gowns from Allure Couture and Eddy K, and bridesmaid dresses by Alexia also are available.
“We have brides call us from out of state because they want to see specific gowns in the shop,” Rivera said.
Currently, gowns are available in sizes 4 to 16 and range in price from $850 to $3,000. Plus-size and mother-of-the bride dresses will be added this fall.
Brides can accessorize any gown with a custom-made veil designed by Lyla Nicole Creations, handmade jewelry by Linda Lee Pratico and custom-designed shoes that Missouri artist Miranda Marie Storer paints by hand.
“She consults through Skype so she can see the bride, and the bride can explain what she wants,” Rivera said.
Ava Laurénne Bride will be featured in a bridal show organized by Heavenly Haven Productions on July 22 at CenterStage in Richmond, and will have its grand opening at 6 p.m. Sept. 15. To make an appointment to try on gowns at the salon, visit avalaurennebride.com or call 800/517-5524.
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407