'A happy business to be in:' Three Fargo women operate new bridal boutiques, each offering brides something different
FARGO — When Evelina Shindieva was asked what inspired her to open her new bridal boutique, I Do European Bridal Couture, she had a quick reply.
"I really wanted to work with happy people," she said.
Vi Mai, manager of the recently opened Honeybee Bridal, had a similar response.
"The wedding industry is the happy business to be in," she said.
Brittany Zimmerman may agree with that sentiment, but for her, it's also because she's been working in the industry since she was a teen.
Zimmerman got her start while still in high school at her mom's bridal boutique in Detroit Lakes, Minn. She bought the business eight years ago, and recently opened a second location in downtown Fargo.
Each of the new boutiques offers brides something different, and Zimmerman said she believes there is more than enough business for everyone.
"There are a ton of bridal stores here, but I also think that that is kind of helpful to our industry. I fully believe there is enough work for everybody," she said.
I Do European Bridal Couture
Owner: Evelina Shindieva
Location: 5 8th St. S., Fargo
Contact: (701) 212-2822 or find it on Facebook by searching "I Do European Bridal Couture"
Hours: By appointment only
Evelina Shindieva had no intention of owning and operating a bridal boutique when she moved here as a refugee in 1996. Having already earned bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering, the native of St. Petersburg, Russia, hoped to continue her education at North Dakota State University.
It was her mother, Roza Shindieva, who first established a business here, although it also had nothing to do with her previous line of work. Shindieva worked for 25 years as a spacecraft engineer in Russia, but there is not a lot of demand for such skills here.
Instead, she pursued her other passion: sewing. In 2001, she opened Roza's Sewing and Alterations on Eighth Street South.
Meanwhile, Evelina Shindieva enrolled at NDSU to pursue a master's degree in business administration. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, she began helping out at the business. Shindieva didn't know how to sew at all but taught herself, saying her mechanical engineering background likely helped.
"I see everything as a blueprint," she explained.
She's operated the sewing and alterations business on her own since her mother passed away in 2003. But after years spent altering wedding dresses and other garments, Shindieva began to dream of owning her own bridal boutique.
She got her chance last spring when the space next door to Roza's, formerly occupied by the upcycled tie store AENDEE, became available.
In December, she opened I Do European Bridal Couture, a small bridal boutique featuring European couture wedding gowns.
Shindieva's business partner in Europe connects her with young up-and-coming designers there. She's currently featuring a collection from France, and expects to have dresses from Italy later this month. She said she would love to feature Russian designers one day as well.
Shindieva explained that it's the details that make European dresses different from those designed in America. European dresses feature extensive hand-beaded work and special touches like 3-D flowers and butterflies. Shindieva said European designers are also not afraid to incorporate color.
Shindieva does all the necessary alterations and will also work with brides to design a custom dress. The boutique is open by appointment only, but Shindieva doesn't want brides to think that means her prices are too high.
"I've tried to stay within the Fargo-Moorhead price range, so I am not more than anybody else in the industry. That's why I work with young designers," she said.
She operates by appointment because she wants brides to have one-on-one fittings and VIP attention.
"What I wanted to offer my customers is great service, beautiful couture dresses, one-on-one individual service, and a fun time," she said.
Manager: Vi Mai
Location: 3402 13th Ave. S. Suite G, Fargo
Contact: (701) 205-9116 or visit www.hbbridal.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday; and by appointment on Sunday.
Manager Vi Mai is very pleased by the reception Honeybee Bridal has received since the full-service bridal boutique opened in late December. She said customers were walking in while they were still putting the final touches on the space formerly home to a Battery Giant store on 13th Avenue.
"We didn't have our open sign up, but it looked complete enough that people were walking in," Mai said.
The store is "slowly growing as they learn about the market," she said.
In addition to wedding, bridesmaid and prom dresses, Honeybee Bridal will also soon offer home decor and other gift items.
"We want people to not only stop here when they need a wedding or bridesmaid dress, but also if they're going to a wedding or a bridal shower," Mai said.
Wedding dresses are sold off the rack at discount prices. Mai said brides who purchase dresses off the rack also receive a 50 percent discount on alterations.
The business employs several seamstresses with extensive experience, including Mai's own mother.
"She's had over two decades of experience. She works magic," Mai said.
Brides also have the option of ordering dresses in a specific size.
The store features several up-and-coming designers such as Calla Blanche, Chic Nostalgia and Evelyn Bridal.
Mai describes Calla Blanche as featuring "lavish, unique lace," Chic Nostalgia as a lighter, more Bohemian style, and Evelyn Bridal as appealing to the traditional bride and featuring "a lot of details and a lot of fabric."
Like Shindieva, Mai was born outside the United States. She moved here from Vietnam with her family at age 6. She grew up in Fargo and graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in accounting.
In addition to running Honeybee Bridal, Mai works full time as a financial professional at a local firm. She said she got involved with Honeybee Bridal because she likes managing a small business.
"When we lived in Vietnam, my parents owned a convenience store. I think I just like being a part of a small business. It runs in our blood. ... I like the idea of making your own schedule, picking out the products you like, and being your own manager and boss," she said.
Affairs by Brittany
Owner: Brittany Zimmerman
Location: 303 Broadway, Fargo
Contact: (701) 561-1766 or search "Affairs by Brittany" Facebook.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 5 Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Sunday hours are likely during prom season.
Brittany Zimmerman said the business model for her new bridal boutique, Affairs by Brittany, is "completely different from everybody else in town."
Affairs by Brittany is an off-the-rack store only, meaning Zimmerman takes in and then discounts designer dresses from all over the U.S.
"We can give a customer a $1,500 or $2,000 dress for a fraction of retail," she said. "We discount them 30 to 60 percent depending on the dress."
She said the business model allows her to keep a fresher inventory than traditional bridal stores.
"In a traditional bridal store, you may have a dress sitting there for as long as they cut that pattern. It could be six months. It could be four years. Here, we've already turned over inventory one time. Not completely, but I've received several shipments," she said.
On the flip side, the business model means brides should be ready to buy if they see something they like.
"You should come prepared to purchase a dress because it might not be here next time," Zimmerman said.
The boutique offers a selection of dresses in sizes 2 to 26 from a number of different name-brand designers.
Zimmerman also guarantees alterations performed by any of her three seamstresses.
"I can promise you that they will do a good job for you," she said. "If I sell a dress and you bring it to your grandma, I can't guarantee she won't butcher it. Just because she can sew quilts or hem a pair of pants does not mean she can alter a bridal gown."
Affairs by Brittany is not only for the wedding party. Zimmerman also carries social occasion dresses ideal for wedding guests.
Zimmerman said business has been "awesome" since the store opened Nov. 25.
"It's been awesome. I love being downtown. I love the downtown community," she said.