By Maureen McEwan
A familiar company has moved into 285 Richmond Rd.
Revelle Bridal Boutique opened its doors in Westboro in July, relocating from Wellington West.
Earleen Garbe, president and owner of Revelle Bridal Boutique, said it was always the plan to stay in Kitchissippi.
“I love that neighbourhood. I think the demographic is who we’re attracting. The ideal Revelle bride is probably living in Westboro or Hintonburg. You know—that trendy, cool bride who wants to spend on herself and kind of values quality over quantity,” she said.
“We’re really happy. We weren’t looking anywhere else to go,” she added.
The company celebrated its fourth year in business this summer. Garbe first opened a bridal shop (Encore Bridal) in January 2017 in Mooney’s Bay. Shortly after, in July that year, she moved into a former art gallery space at 1281 Wellington St. W. The “big white blank space” gave the team an opportunity to rebrand and create the company they wanted—and so Revelle was born.
At that location, they were hosting up to a dozen bridal appointments on any given Saturday pre-pandemic, Garbe said. Beginning March 2020, one of two changing rooms was shut down to accommodate COVID-19 protocols, reducing the average number of Saturday appointments to four.
Garbe decided to look for a larger space to manage COVID-19 safety needs and to sustain her business.
The new spot at 285 Richmond Rd. effectively doubles the space, Garbe said. It has three private fitting rooms for bridal parties, allowing for three appointments to be scheduled safely at a time.
Before March 2020, the company didn’t have a strong online presence because the dress shopping “experience” is central to the business, Garbe said.
“It wasn’t really something that was in our business model before because it’s an expensive purchase for brides, right? Brides tend to want to come in and try on and feel the gown and just have the experience. The big thing is the experience—and that’s something we can’t replicate virtually.”
Despite that, Garbe said she was proud her team was quick to adapt to virtual bridal fittings. They also developed a “try at home” option where brides could take prospective dresses to try on in the safety of their own space.
“That, I think, was what set us apart a little bit because we were able to kind of bring a little bit of the Revelle experience to them at home.”
While the “in-boutique experience” is irreplaceable, the company will likely continue to offer virtual appointments in future. Garbe said virtual fittings helped expand their market beyond Ottawa’s borders.
She added that she thinks COVID-19 has impacted the industry and how customers shop forever.
“It’s definitely been a challenge, especially for our kind of industry. It’s very seasonal,” she said.
“There hasn’t been a month in the last 14 months where we haven’t been worried about our business. But, at the same time, we’ve had a lot of support from our brides and our wedding industry friends, so we’re hanging in there.”
Garbe credits her Revelle Bridal Boutique team as a main reason she’s pulled through the last year and a half. And it is a family business: her daughter, Marisa, is the boutique operations manager.
“As a business owner, it’s really important to be surrounded by a very good team,” she said. “And I think without the team that I have, I don’t think I would have been able to make it through these past 14 months during the pandemic.”
COVID-19 has also introduced new trends in the wedding industry. A good example? Garbe thinks the small event trend is here to stay.
“We’ll still see some big weddings but I think that’s going to be more of the rarity as opposed to the rule,” she added.
On the budget side, she’s noticed that brides are spending more on different things now, she said, including dresses and accessories, so the business demand remains.
“In the end, they’re still going to get married and they still need something to wear, right?” she said, laughing.
To learn more, visit revellebridal.com.