About Town: Casa de Novia
This is the first in a series called "About Town," which will feature cuteheads in photoshoots at some of our favorite local businesses. We'll feature pictures as well as profiles of the location where we're shooting.
I was one of those dreaded brides: the kind that simply could not make a decision. I must have tried on 200 dresses, and that is not something I'm proud of. Buying a wedding dress turned out to be a very stressful situation for me, but in the end, I settled on a gorgeous gown from local boutique Casa de Novia. I fell in love not only with the sweet shop, but with owner Luvi Wheelock, who understands what it's like to run and business, have a family, and still try to get some sleep once in awhile. It was only natural that when we decided to launch this series, we start at Casa de Novia. The light inside is gorgeous, the staff is incredibly helpful, and I'd be lying if I wasn't a little excited that Vera Wang herself featured this campaign on her Instagram. Without further ado, meet Luvi.
What made you want to start a business?
I had a wonderful at experience at every bridal salon I went to in Houston when I was searching for my gown, but the type of gown I wanted was not easily available. I wanted a very simple gown with beautiful soft and light fabric. Most gowns eleven years ago were satin ball gowns. I never had that "aw" moment when I settled on my dress, but it was pretty and worked for what I envisioned. A couple months after my wedding, my husband and I were casually talking about the market in Houston and we both knew there was something missing in the bridal stores here. My husband and my family encouraged me to open up a store! I had no bridal experience and no retail experience prior to opening, so I thank them every opportunity I have for giving me the courage to open something on my own.
Did you always know you wanted to work in fashion and/or bridal?
I graduated TCU with a finance degree but knew all throughout college that I was going to work in fashion somehow. It truly is in my DNA and I have an incredible passion for clothes. I know that my talent is my eye for finding things that are new and fresh and being able to put wonderful looks together.
You're not only a successful business owner, but also a mother of two. That must be challenging. What's a typical day like for you?
My two daughters and my husband are number one for me every single second of my life. My husband is incredible and so helpful. Creating a balance is extremely difficult at times because I'm involved in retail. I take my girls to school every morning and pick them up in the afternoons and stay home with them in the afternoons if I can. There are days where I have to go back to the store and stay until late, but I try my best to limit those nights a week. On the flip side, I am so fortunate to own my own business because I can schedule things around their activities. Lastly ,but definitely not least, I have an incredible team at the boutique. I am so lucky to have these wonderful co-workers to count on because they allow me the special time I don't want to miss with my girls!
You somewhat recently transitioned into a bigger space, opening a boutique that sells ready-to-wear fashion and not just bridal. What has it been like to grow your business?
It was such an organic growth and I love that nothing was forced. I started the business in 2005 - 10 years ago this year! I loved our [original] space on D'Amico where we were for 8 years. I took over the garage and at some point converted the atrium in the store into a ready-to-wear boutique. It wasn't until I used up every square inch of that place until I finally caved and knew in my heart it was time to grow somewhere else. I love The River Oaks Shopping Center and adore our space. The brides have suites where they can feel more private while having fittings, there is a lot of natural light, and most importantly, it has the same easy going feel. Atrium has been such an amazing experience. That again had such a natural start. My clients from Casa de Novia loved asking me to help them pick out dresses for their bridal events- showers, luncheons, rehearsal dinners, honeymoon looks, etc. I LOVED that part of it and after doing it for so long I thought it was just too silly not to pass up an opportunity to start something fresh and totally different.
What are some of the challenges you face?
Online shopping is my biggest competitor in Atrium. We have always delivered on approval to our clients and that helps quite a bit. There is nothing better than trying things on at your house with your mirror and your clothes and accessories all there within reach. For Casa de Novia, I think it's just that there is so much out there. It's really hard for some people to make a decision.
Do you have any advice for others who are interested in opening their own businesses in the fashion industry?
Work in retail before you even think of opening up something. When you have your own business, there are incredible benefits like meeting new people and having something to grow on your own. But you also are always a slave to your business. A vacation isn't ever a vacation because your mind is always on your business!