A Beckley-based bridal, prom and formal wear business opened a new store in the Charleston Town Center on Valentine’s Day, hoping to fill a void after the departure of several teen and women’s fashion stores.
Jean Ann’s Bridal and Prom Fashions had a soft opening Saturday in the former Delia’s location on the mall’s second floor. The business, which sells formal dresses and tuxedos, is owned by the mother-daughter team of Jean and Jennifer Skaggs.
The pair has had a store in Beckley since 2009 and has kicked around the idea of opening a shop in Charleston for several years. They began eying locations in the mall late last year.
“We just felt like that might be a really good location business-wise for us,” Jennifer Skaggs said. “They have a lot of things going on at the Civic Center that bring people in, and there are people shopping there all year, so we felt that might help people see us and remember us during prom or wedding season.”
Jennifer said they looked at several potential store locations. But when teen retailer Delia’s Inc. announced in December that it was filing for bankruptcy and closing all stores — including the one in the Town Center — she said the Skaggs businesswomen knew they wanted that spot.
“It was a great location,” she said. “It was all very open, clean and black and white — very suitable for bridal.”
Jennifer Skaggs said she and her mom waited for Delia’s to close Jan. 31 before opening lease negotiations with mall staff. They had a lease on the 4,100-square-foot store signed within eight days and began working to open by Feb. 14.
“We opened in six days, we had to lot of log of hours (getting things ready),” she said.
The Feb. 14 opening date wasn’t just significant because it was Valentine’s Day; it marked the six-year anniversary of opening the first Jean Ann’s store in Beckley in 2009.
Jennifer, 31, said she’s had an interest in fashion from a very young age. After graduating with a degree in business, she moved to North Carolina for a while where she planned events and set up beach weddings. But she always wanted to work in fashion.
She decided she wanted to move home to Beckley in 2008, and thought when she got back she’d like to open up a bridal gown and prom dress store.
“I called my mom, told her her what I wanted to do, and she got excited and said, ‘I want to do that with you,’” Jennifer said.
She created a business plan and applied for a Small Business Administration loan that October. Though it was at the height of the financial crisis, their loan application was approved within 60 days. Two months later they opened in a four-story, Victorian colonial house. They moved to their present location in the Beckley Crossing Shopping Center in January 2013.
With the Charleston store, the Skaggses hope to branch out beyond just prom and wedding seasons by providing formal wear for many of the galas, balls, fundraisers and other special events regularly held in Charleston throughout the year. And they’re willing to expand their selections to meet whatever customers might be in the market for.
“We are expanding into different areas,” Jennifer said. “We are currently building our inventory, we would love to take suggestions for what people are looking for and we would add that to our selection.”
She also said the store is hiring additional employees. Those interested can apply at the store in the mall.
Jennifer, who won the Ms. West Virginia title in August, is also beginning to design her own line of dresses, six of which are on sale in the Charleston store. She plans design new dresses to wear when she competes in the Ms. America Pageant later this year in Las Vegas.
Town Center marketing director Lisa McCracken said mall executives were thrilled to add Jean Ann’s to the mall’s portfolio of stores. McCracken said the new store will help fill the void left behind by Delia’s and Cache, another teen retailer that has also gone bankrupt.
McCracken said the timing worked out as well. She said the launch of the new Disney “Cinderella” movie next month is expected to revive interest in formal dresses.
“The timing is really wonderful to return to the more formal gowns as they have at Jean Ann’s, because that’s all the buzz for all the girls,” McCracken said.
Meanwhile, McCracken said the mall is in active negotiations with potential new tenants for some of the other retail locations vacated by companies going bankrupt, including Cache, RadioShack and Coldwater Creek.
In the food court, the mall has signed a new tenant to occupy the former location of Steak Escape, which closed its mall location at the end of January.
Mall executives have signed a lease with the Charley’s Philly Steaks to open a new restaurant in the 1,500-square-foot space. The Columbus, Ohio-based chain serves philly cheesesteaks, deli sandwiches, fries and salads.
McCracken said the new Charley’s is expected to open sometime in March.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4836.