By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany West news
MANDEVILLE – It is easy to see Dawn Michelet’s story in business as a great success.
For someone to own her first bridal store at the age of 23 and pay off her $135,000 business loan in less than three years makes it clear Michelet has a talent for business. Now over 20 years later, she owns The Red Carpet store in Mandeville, located in the Chenier Shopping Center at 1901 Hwy. 190, while also owning The Red Carpet at 3425 Magazine St. in New Orleans.
But the financial success Michelet has enjoyed in business does not tell the real story of what “success” means to her.
Example number one occurred several years ago when a 35-year-old woman came into her store and was desperate for help, with an upcoming social event on the horizon.
“She told me she had a crush on a guy for 10 years and he had never noticed her,” she said. “She wanted this big event to be the night she got noticed.”
Michelet said the woman was “petite but sort of vanilla. She was pretty, but didn’t wear much makeup and didn’t try to stand out.”
“We found the perfect V-neck flesh dress for her, the kind that looks like you aren’t wearing anything but beads all over your body, even though you are,” she said with a laugh. “Then I told her to wear some red lipstick, only a little makeup and showed her how to fix her hair. She was really attractive, but hadn’t been doing the things to look her absolute best.”
Michelet said the couple “got together” that night and have been dating for a year.
Example number two occurred when a “very heavy girl” came into the store at the last minute needing a prom dress.
“The truth was we barely had anything in the store that would fit her, even though I have lots of larger size formal dresses for women going to Mardi Gras and formal events,” she said.
After working with several dresses, Michelet found a perfect purple dress, and added the right shoes and jewelry. She said “the girl was spinning around the room so happy with the way she looked.”
But the mother of the young girl only had $400 for an outfit that cost hundreds more.
“The mother offered to clean for us to make up the difference, but I wouldn’t have it,” she said. “We are here to make women feel special, and help you look your best. We want women to feel beautiful when they leave here and that’s what I love about this business. I took the $400 and that was the end of it. The girl called next week and said she had a great night.”
Michelet is a native New Orleanian and headed to LSU planning to study physical therapy.
“But I took a fashion design course as an elective and that was it. I was hooked. We had to put on a fashion show and I was doing so much of it because I loved the business,” she said.
After graduating with a degree in Merchandising and Advertising, she worked three years for Saks Fifth Avenue, then worked at a “mom and pop bridal shop where I got to do everything and learned the business in every way possible.”
At the young age of 23 she met the owners of a bridal store in Metairie that was about to close.
“The owner was older and ready to get out of the business, so I sold him on a deal to finance me to buy the store,” she said. “No bank would have ever done that, but I told him, ‘what do you have to lose? You’re about to close and lose what you have anyway.’”
The owner took her up on it and she was so successful that she paid off the $135,000 business loan in under three years. She kept the shop until Hurricane Katrina wiped her out, however, two months earlier she opened her first Red Carpet store on Magazine, going for high-end buyers who would pay $5,000 for a dress or $800 for a pair of pants.
“We barely got open and Katrina hit, so when we reopened in October, we switched to regular clothes people could afford,” she said. “It went very well.”
She decided to add her second location in Mandeville in Nov., 2007 and continues with great success, due to her philosophy of helping women find the perfect fit, and providing the best service anywhere.
“When you come here you don’t put clothes back on the racks, we put your shoes on for you—it’s about listening to what a woman says and fitting the dress to her body. Our store has a therapeutic style and when you leave, you feel special,” she added.
The Red Carpet offers custom alterations and offers special promotions much of the time, she said. You can contact them by stopping by the Chenier Shopping Center, or calling 985-231-7177.