Thursday, September 17, 2020
Brooke Ramos initially wanted to be a wedding planner. But after working as a stylist in two bridal shops, she decided to open her own business, instead.
The result is Brooke’s Bridal & Ball, in Fairfax City’s Old Town Plaza. It’s owned by Brooke and her mom, Nanci Ramos; and on Aug. 1, it had its grand opening and ribbon cutting.
“Opening up a business during normal times is stressful; but doing it during a pandemic can be really nerve-wracking,” said Fairfax Assistant Economic Development Director Danette Nguyen. “But Brooke and Nanci said ‘I do’ to opening it here, and we’re so thankful.”
THE SPACIOUS STORE features more than 100 wedding gowns, plus dresses for the mother of the bride, bridesmaids, flower girl and special occasions – such as formal events, galas and holiday parties – as well as coordinating accessories. “This really looks nice,” said Councilman Joe Harmon. “And it’ll also generate walk-in traffic to Old Town Plaza.”
“This used to be a Panera restaurant, and the transformation is phenomenal,” said Fairfax Mayor David Meyer. “People are still getting married, pandemic or no pandemic. Brooke will enter her customers’ lives at a critical time, creating an experience they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. She’s providing a service and so much more.”
Then came the ribbon cutting; but first, Brooke thanked her friends, family and the City for “making my dreams come true.” Afterward, attendees – wearing masks and socially distancing – got to see the beautiful gowns inside the shop, and Brooke and Nanci toasted to a successful future.
“Businesses like this are a perfect example of how to evolve in a COVID-19 world,” said Economic Development Director Chris Bruno. “And Fairfax City is the perfect setting for them to do that. We have the infrastructure to guarantee the safety and security of both customers and employees as we reopen the economy.”
“I’ve always been really girly and liked weddings, and I got a wedding-planning certification in 2011,” said Brooke. “I was then a stylist at Alfred Angelo Bridal in Springfield for six years, working with brides, bridesmaids, mothers and flower girls to help them find their gowns.”
“I loved every minute of it,” she continued. “It was a fun atmosphere, and I liked making the girls’ dreams come true. The best part was connecting with a bride’s vision of her wedding.” She then switched to Brides by Demetrios in Tysons Galleria, working there two years until the Macy’s it was inside closed last spring.
So Brooke teamed with her mother to open their own store. “My mom has a background in bookkeeping and accounting, so she takes care of the books,” said Brooke. “We make a good pair.”
They also loved Fairfax City. “I used to come here for lunch with friends and always liked the atmosphere,” explained Brooke. “We looked at several locations, but this one was the best. Everyone’s so friendly and welcoming, and I like the way the businesses support each other and help each other grow.”
At Brooke’s Bridal, she and her stylists ask brides-to-be what they want their gowns to look like and the type of feel their wedding should have. Then they’ll help them browse the store’s offerings, see what they want to try on and help them in and out of each gown.
Once the gown is chosen, the bride’s measurements are taken, and the gown is specially ordered for her. “The gowns in the store are samples,” said Brooke. “However, at the end of both the fall and spring seasons, we’ll sell directly from the floor to make room for the new collections.”
BECAUSE OF COVID-19, she said, “We ask the bride if she’d feel comfortable with us helping her in and out of her gown. We wear masks and gloves; and after a bride tries on a dress, we’ll have it cleaned and sanitized – a 24-hour process – so it’s ready for the next bride.” Walk-ins are fine, but the store recommends customers make appointments to try on dresses, so they’ll have one-on-one time with a stylist.
“We ask the bride to be open-minded regarding her gown, but we also make her comfortable and feel at home, so she’ll have a good experience,” said Brooke. “It’s the most important day of her life – and she’ll be looking at her wedding pictures for the rest of her life.”
In sizes 0-28, the gowns come in a variety of styles and, said Brooke, “We try to find out the bride’s personality and what draws her to a certain style of gown. We also offer different types of veils, gloves and jewelry.” By opening day, they’d already received 17 appointments for weddings in 2021, and both she and her mother are excited about the future.
“The tug at Brooke’s heart is when a bride decides on her gown,” said Nanci. “She likes being part of that emotional experience, and Brooke can usually tell that the bride has found that perfect dress before she can. We have many testimonials from satisfied customers – there’s just a heart connection.”
They also plan to have trunk shows, in which bridal-gown designers give a sneak peak of their new line before the public sees it. And this fall, they’ll receive their dresses for spring 2021.
“Next year, on a July weekend, we’ll do Brides across America and give free dresses to military personnel or their brides, or first responders,” said Nanci, “It’s giving back to the community. Eventually, we plan to have makeup artists in our store on the weekends. A baker also wants to come in, and a harpist wants to play music here on a Saturday.”
Pleased with their Fairfax City location, she said, “We really like the community feel, so we wanted to be here. And we love the Old Town area – it just feels like home.”
Brooke’s Bridal & Ball
3955 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 103, Fairfax City.
Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday, until 7 p.m.; and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Closed Mondays. Call 703-537-0307 for appointments.