Being in the business of marriage doesn’t mean one has to be married.
That’s the case for Lori LeeAnne Conerly, 24, and her shop LeeAnne’s Luxury Bridal Boutique, 18724 Grand River Ave. in the Grandmont Rosedale area. Although it hasn’t yet completed a full year in business, the store has won praise for its customer service and welcoming atmosphere.
“I just kind of stumbled upon it,” says Conerly, who remembers when a sorority sister introduced her to the industry as a college job opportunity. “I absolutely loved it, ended up working my way up to management, and kind of just fell in love with the bridal world.”
As owner of LeeAnne’s, she is the sole employee, but her mother LaVonne Woods helps out as a hostess.
Since opening last September, Conerly has served about 20 brides and hosted five to 10 bridal parties. She says she keeps dress prices within affordable range of the community she serves, from $300 to $1,000, while other metro Detroit shops sell dresses for as much as $1,800. The store represents a rare retail group within Michigan’s most high-end, specialty clothing industries.
Customers who first visit LeeAnne’s in search of a bridal gown are shown styles from A-line and mermaid to ball gown. Conerly shares what best fits the silhouette and until she finds the perfect choice for each customer. Part of gaining bridal expertise involves trying on the many dresses to understand body types, Conerly says, adding that understanding a bride’s story and family background is just as important as fitting the dress.
Candice Hardaway, a bride-to-be in 2019, says LeeAnne’s was recommended to her through a high school friend who married last year. Hardaway says Conerly’s personality stood out more than those of other bridal shop owners. Conerly was polite and had a go-getter’s attitude.
“She puts a lot of emphasis in what she does,” says Hardaway. “It’s beautiful. The experience with Lori and her mom, everything is great. It’s just an overall feeling, it’s perfect.”
For Conerly, weekends are busiest, so a typical work day finds her at a laptop navigating paperwork, marketing and social media.
“I’ve always wanted to be the sole owner,” she says, “not necessarily to reap the benefits, but so I know I worked super-hard for it and I made it grow into what it is.”
Woods says her daughter always played dress-up as a girl, so Woods wasn’t surprised Conerly went on to own a bridal store. As a black woman, it is important that Conerly not only has her own business but that she represents herself well to the community, Woods says.
“They always downplay us – the young, black women – and say we’re not educated,” says Woods. “They say, ‘they just wanna have babies and stuff.’ So she’s doing a great thing. She’s being a mentor to a lot of girls who need someone to look up to, and showing them they can have their dreams. I’m proud of her.”
Editor’s Note: This small business feature is sponsored by Bank of America. To learn more about Bank of America’s many programs and resources for small business owners visit: https://www.bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness/business-financing.go.