It can be a risky venture to open a retail store in a metropolitan area with such stiff competition for shoppers' dollars, especially in such a business-intense area as Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Metairie. But for Maureen Wells, it was her only option.
She opened Decor/ Couture (4608 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-9060) about a year ago in a two-story building that for years had been occupied by House of Broel bridal shop. Upstairs, she mixes fashion-forward formal and casual women's apparel, prom dresses, ball gowns and wedding dresses with mother-of-the-bride fashions, uncommon jewelry and other accessories. Downstairs, Wells displays three rooms of furniture, artworks, home decorating accessories, hand-painted glassware, brass sculptures and more. It's not the usual mix, but it's one that works for Wells.
"We do a little bit of everything," Wells says. "We have interior decorating accessories, art, a bridal registry, toasting glasses, a few chandeliers, glass cases, lots of things to choose from." The offerings include Evans Glass creations, brass sculptures by Mark Hopkins and home decor by other artists and manufacturers that are hard to find locally. "We try to find things that are truly unique and that you don't find other places. I like to do unique things." That search started when Wells and her husband, Bill, owner of Wells Construction, couldn't find the decorating items they wanted for their own house.
"We bought a house and needed things to put in it," Wells remembers. "We couldn't really find exactly what we wanted here, so we went to market ourselves. I found lots of things I liked there, and my husband said I couldn't bring everything home and keep it all, so I opened a store to sell it. Then we added dresses."
It was a good move; the women's apparel section has become a popular stopping place. "Bridal and prom are our main two things right now," Well says. "We stay busy with those. I think people who come to shop here for clothes don't really realize we have the stuff downstairs until they come here." For mothers shopping with brides, bridesmaids, or teenagers looking for the perfect prom dress, a trip down the stairs into the quiet, serene world of beautiful home accessories can be a welcome respite. When it's time for the mother-of-the-bride to be fashionably attired, however, Decor/Couture can take care of it. The formal wear ranges in styles from classic to contemporary, strapless to dresses with a jacket or wrap. For less formal events, there are colorful sheer fabrics beautifully sculpted into dresses, pant suits, skirts, shorts and more, reflecting the latest fashions. Again, Wells has sought out manufacturers that aren't common in New Orleans such as Komorav, Rex Lester, Jessica McClintock, Joe Ribkoff, Mica and others. The shop also has handmade sterling silver and crystal bead chokers in several styles, some made with richly colored crystal.
The shop also carries lingerie, a range of wedding supplies such as ivory-handled serving pieces, and candles in a variety of shapes and scents. Shoppers also will find a selection of collectible Marie Osmond dolls, some dollhouse accoutrement and more. In the home décor area, there are samplings of everything from pet accessories to reproductions of antique bells on a stand, unique oversized decorative mirrors, Bali bowls, three-dimensional artworks in wood by John Butler, and the Legends Collection of artworks that display aquatic wonders such as mermaids and dolphins cast from brass and floating in a "sea" of clear acrylic. There's even a musical carousel horse for the hard-to-please. Wells also will special order pieces she doesn't have in the showroom.
"The home decorating items have gone over well," Wells says. "It's fun to see people find something that's unusual and surprises them a little bit. We try to offer things in a variety of ranges. We have things from $5 up to $4,000. There's something for all tastes."
An added plus is that the building itself is large, giving shoppers plenty of room to roam through displays of furniture and art. Wells says she also still has room to expand in the future, probably in the bridal and fashion areas. The property also has a sizeable parking lot behind the store that makes it easier for customers traveling on Veterans Memorial Boulevard.
- Out-of-the ordinary furniture and home decorating accessories occupy the downstairs showroom at Decor/Couture, while the upstairs has a bounty of bridal and women's fashions.