For most of my childhood, my Mom worked. She worked part-time, full-time, graveyard shifts and more. She worked jobs that she wasn’t passionate about, not because she longed to work, but because she helped our family financially. For years, I watched her work for people who treated her poorly, make less money than she deserved and miss out on time at home that she wanted. It wasn’t ALL bad. I have great memories of visiting her at work, playing with office supplies, eating in the hospital cafeteria and chatting with her friendly co-workers. The point I want to make here, is that these jobs did not fulfill her. These jobs were never her passion.
When I was 14 my Mom came to the family with an idea. She had this wild dream to open her own dress shop, a formal-wear store. Now, in our small Texas low-key town, opening up a shop to sell only formals was not only a crazy idea, but a risky one. My family doesn’t come from money. We do not descend from a line of entrepreneurs. In fact, my Mom, does not have a college degree, nor any experience in sales, marketing or business. She came to the family with a far-fetched dream, one that most would say is unattainable. Not my family. Not me. I honestly have no memory of what my Dad or sister said or thought. I only remember being so excited, excited that my Mom was attempting to follow a dream. Being the dreamer of the family, I couldn’t have felt more proud…or so I thought.
Over the next year or so, our lives were totally changed. We moved to a one income family that was investing in a business. The family purse strings were tightened as inventory was ordered, racks were purchased, a store space was rented and so on. No one seemed to mind. We were all too busy. My Mom rented a very old building downtown that needed to be cleaned, revamped and decorated. She ran all over town to find clothing racks, mannequins, shelving, signs, decorations from store-closings, consignment shops and garage sales. Looking back, she must have been so stressed having to learn so much about running her own business while simultaneously starting her own business. Plus, she still managed to keep our house spotless, feed us, love us, bring us to church, attend school events and look flawless every. single. day.
Before her store opened, she had to go to Market to order her dresses. Market is a trade show where businesses order their prom and wedding gowns wholesale. So, for Mom’s first Market experience, my sister and I got to join her. Talk about an incredibly fun experience for 15 year old me! We went from showroom to showroom, watching runway shows, meeting designers, eating as many free snacks and drinks as possible and getting to help select the gowns that would be sold to all the local girls in our area. I was over the moon excited the entire time. And, to be honest, I was still over the moon excited when I went to market in Atlanta with my Mom a couple of years ago. The atmosphere at Market is electric, and I am so grateful that I got to experience it multiple times with my Mom.
Then, in January of 2001, Dressin’ Up, my Mom’s store, opened. It was an immediate hit in our town. I will never forget watching the cool, beautiful, stylish junior and senior girls coming into the store and falling in love with the gowns we selected from Market. I actually heard the news being spread around school about the “new dress shop” that you “had to check out”. I never doubted my Mom could do it, but watching it unfold so beautifully was kind of surreal. I felt immense pride for my Mom.
Over the next few years, I spent hours helping out and working at Dressin’ Up. My friends and I tried on countless prom dresses as they arrived. I participated in fashion shows, attended bridal markets and learned A LOT about retail. Of course, I also got first pick for pageant, prom and formal gowns for all occasions! #DreamComeTrue I also knew what virtually every other girl chose, and even got to help several friends and acquaintances pick out their perfect dress. And, we had so much fun throughout it all!
Fast forward a few more years, and all of those prom and pageant girls were now returning to purchase their wedding and bridesmaid dresses. Girls from all over the county (and further!) came to know my Mom and her shop so well. I moved away about 7 years after Dressin’ Up opened, and to this day, when I come home to visit, my Mom gets recognized. Everywhere we go, I hear, “Hey Mrs. Linda! Remember me?!” And, she does, my Mom seems to remember everyone who buys from her for their special occasion. See, that’s what makes her an excellent shop owner… she cares.
She truly cared that the people who bought from her wore a gown (or tux) that made them look and feel beautiful. She knew that many of them were shopping for the “best day of their life”, and feeling their best is a big part of that day. I cannot tell you how many conversations she’s had with me over the years about the hundreds of people who come to her store looking for the “perfect dress”. But, I can tell you this, she cares about each and every one of you.
Now, 18 years later, my Mom has made the decision to move on to her life’s next big adventure. As of today, Dressin’ Up has a brand new owner. She sold her shop to Kari Robbins, a former employee, and she could not have chosen a better person. Kari and my Mom go WAY back. She was my Mom’s right hand woman for a long time, and had a dream of one day owning Dressin’ Up. Many years (and four kids later!), here she is! Running the place and already proving to be a fantastic owner! I am so stinkin’ happy for her and cannot wait to see how Dressin’ Up flourishes over the next several years. Kari will truly continue the dream that my Mom had so many years ago. Congratulations Kari!!!
And, Mom, what can I say? I have tears in my eyes as I try to muster up the right words. I am so very proud of you. You are a role model to me in every aspect of my life. Watching you thrive and live out your dream over the last 18 years is an inspiration to me and many others. I know this is just one part of your journey, and I am excited to see what’s in store for you next. Whatever, that is, I have no doubt you will be a success.
I love you and I’m proud of you, Mom.