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Gorgeous Gowns and Great Expectations
by Audrey Hanes, photography by Amy Long

When girls and women of all ages walk through the doors of Great Expectations Bridal and Formal Consignment Boutique, they are met with racks and walls teeming with beautiful consignment wedding dresses and formal gowns of all colors, styles and sizes. Now, thanks to new owner Kristy Adams’ regular store hours, the local business is attracting more customers than ever before from all over Arkansas and the surrounding states to the store and to the Downtown Jonesboro area.

The bridal and formal consignment boutique opened downtown in 2014 under the ownership of Mallory Huffer. Three years later, when Adams walked through the door of the specialty retailer to look for a wedding dress for her oldest daughter, Huffer casually approached her about taking over the business.

“I knew Mallory because she used to teach at Brookland; she was my youngest daughter’s cheerleading coach,” said Adams, who has previous retail and pageant experience. “I knew she owned this place and had consigned there myself last year with my daughters’ pageant dresses. Then, when I made my first visit as a customer in October, Mallory asked me if this business was something I’d be interested in owning. It started out with her jokingly saying that I would be good at this, then I started seriously thinking about it being something that I would really enjoy.”

By January 2018, Adams had officially bought Great Expectations and had implemented store hours, making it easier for customers to access than the previous appointment-only availability. The boutique is open Tuesday through Friday from 1-6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Other than store hours, Adams kept the remainder of the store the same, from the name and logo to the inventory, especially when it comes to consigning. For those who wish to consign a dress, Adams takes the designer, condition, original price and year it was purchased into consideration. When a gown is sold, she splits the profits 50/50 with the consigner.

“I’m very selective about what I take to consign,” said Adams. “I still want them to make money, but at the same time, the customer is getting a huge discount instead of paying retail. It works out well for both parties. … I treat each dress differently. Each dress has a story of how it comes to get here. You can even re-consign. The price might be dropped since there was another wear in there, but you can consign a dress you originally bought here.”

The boutique owner says that foot traffic alone has been great with the addition of having permanent hours. Prom shopping started picking up in January, and now that it’s over, the bridal side of Great Expectations is starting to pick up.

“When I first started, I set a goal to at least cover rent and bills, and I tripled my goal for the first quarter,” she said. “The foot traffic and store hours have made such an impact, but I really am a destination place. I’ve had customers from all over Missouri, Little Rock, Mississippi, Memphis and, of course, locally. While our out-of-town customers are here, I always tell them to check out the restaurants and other businesses nearby – I want them to stay downtown.”

What made you want to try something completely new and take over Great Expectations? I thought it would be fun for me and my daughters. They’ve helped me up here on Saturdays, especially my youngest. I get to play dress up every day. I have customers come out to the platform with the mirror in the main area of the store, and I get to play dress up with them. I enjoy seeing their faces; you can look at their facial expression and body language and know if they either love or hate a dress. I love the look on their faces when they find their dress.

What are some examples of bridal styles that are popular this season? Style-wise, mermaid. People still want the lace, and still some beading, but not a whole lot. Brides seem to want simple, fun, sweet dresses and not a whole lot of train. I’ve had several brides come in and get the birdcage veils. As far as the color, a light mocha color and cream/ivory are big; not many brides seem to want bright white.

What trends are you seeing in formal gowns? Everybody wants two-piece dresses, mermaid or long, column-fitted. We’re not seeing a lot of ball gowns there, either. We have a lot for prom, local school pageants, cotillion, sorority formals and other events in Jonesboro. Some of our more simple dresses would work for Charity Ball or other formal events. Our customers are everyone from 11-year-olds for cotillion to women of all ages for local charity events.

Besides dresses, what accessories do you carry? Crystal sashes for bridal gowns, shoes, veils, headpieces and jewelry from head-to-toe – earrings, necklaces, etc. Everything is consigned.

What are a few of the most popular brands that come through your store?
It’s all over the place, but a few of the most popular are Sherri Hill, Jovani, Rachel Allen and Mac Duggal. We even have wedding dresses on consignment here that are straight off the New York City runways.

Great Expectations Bridal and Formal Consignment Boutique is located at 316 S. Main St., Suite B in Downtown Jonesboro. For more information, call (870) 897-5342, visit greatexpectationsnea.com or find it on Facebook.