Bri­dal bou­tique owner hopes to join sup­ply, de­mand

North Beach mayor says shop adds to town’s ap­peal as a wed­ding des­ti­na­tion

Maryland Independent - - Business - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­ Twit­ter: @Dan­danEn­tNews

Open for about six months, the Cham­pagne Taste Bri­dal Bou­tique in North Beach has been po­si­tion­ing it­self as the dress shop­ping des­ti­na­tion for cus­tomers from not only South­ern Mary­land, but also the gen­eral area that cov­ers Wash­ing­ton, D.C., An­napo­lis and Bal­ti­more.

Be­fore open­ing the store, the shop’s owner, Sara Lehnen, said she knew that a rel­a­tive used to own a store in Dunkirk and closed it for per­sonal rea­sons a few years ago.

“Since then, there’s re­ally not one” in the area, she said. Her shop, she hopes, would fill that void.

On a macro level, her bou­tique fits nicely with the town’s ef­forts to pro­mote North Beach as a prime wed­ding venue for cou­ples statewide.

“We are pleased, of course, when any new busi­nesses de­cide to lo­cate” in the town, said Mark Frazer, the mayor of North Beach.

Since North Beach has been pro­mot­ing the town as a wed­ding des­ti­na­tion to stim­u­late the lo­cal econ­omy, Frazer said Lehnen’s store is “one piece of the puz­zle that will even­tu­ally make North Beach a well­known wed­ding venue.”

With close to 550 dresses, Lehnen said her con­sign­ment bou­tique of­fers a va­ri­ety of lines of dresses with dif­fer­ent styles and sizes.

In gen­eral, dresses at the shop cost be­tween $300 to $3,000. Lehnen said cus­tomers on av­er­age spend be­tween $650 to $1,500 on a dress.

With each cus­tomer, she al­ways looks for­ward to the mo­ment when the bride-to-be finds the per­fect dress.

“It puts this glow on her … they are stand­ing there, twirling,” Lehnen said. “You just see it in their eyes; they just don’t have any words.”

On a wall of her shop, there’s a sen­tence that says “… and the story be­gins here!” — which Lehnen said ex­plains her en­tire phi­los­o­phy be­hind the bri­dal store. “It’s ex­cit­ing to be part of that story,” she said. “To get to ex­pe­ri­ence it with them … it’s the rea­son we do what we do ever y day.”

She once worked as a sales and cater­ing man­ager for the Ch­e­sa­peake Beach Re­sort and Spa for about four years, which is when Lehnen fell in love with wed­dings and got a taste of the ex­cite­ment the in­dustr y of­fers.

A grad­u­ate of Calvert County’s Beach Ele­men­tary, Windy Hill Mid­dle and Hunt­ing­town High School, Lehnan, 23, said she has al­ways loved fash­ion and liked to play with clothes. When she was a teen, Lehnen used to de­sign dresses in her sketch book. Once she drew a dress, which she later found on dis­play in a mall.

Part of her was ex­cited to see that dress on sale be­cause it val­i­dated her taste and showed her that some­one else saw value in that de­sign too. At the same time, she felt an­noyed that she wasn’t the per­son who made it hap­pen. With strong, mixed feel­ings, she bought the dress, which re­mains to be in her closet.

De­scribed as a “go-get­ter” by her fam­ily and friends, Lehnen said she was will­ing to take the risks of run­ning two small busi­nesses — the bri­dal shop and a cloth­ing bou­tique in town — be­cause she was more afraid of not tak­ing the risk and re­gret­ting it later. “Crash and burn” is bet­ter than not know­ing, she said.

Since open­ing her new store, Lehnen reg­u­larly goes to bri­dal shows and re­lated events to “get the knowl­edge out that we are not far.”

So far, North Beach has hosted four wed­dings and there are three more planned for this year, ac­cord­ing to Town Ad­min­is­tra­tor Stacy Wilk­er­son. In 2016, the town hosted six wed­dings.

Frazer, who got mar­ried about a year ago at the pier, said the town coun­cil is ap­ply­ing to get a per­mit from the Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment to build an open-air pavil­ion at the end of the pier.

Hope­fully when peo­ple see the pavil­ion, they will iden­tify the pier and the town as a lo­ca­tion for wed­dings and other life events, Frazer said.

The 1,000-square-foot pavil­ion is planned to be about 8 feet high with white col­umns and a blue roof, which could add an­other 6 feet to the struc­ture, he said.


Sara Lehnen stands in her shop, Cham­pagne Taste Bri­dal Bou­tique, in North Beach.

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