TIFFIN– For Melissa Fontanini and Lyndsie Schnoor, flirting with an idea blossomed into a full-blown relationship, and it wasn’t long before a romantic business venture was born.
The pair of 20-somethings, both with experience in the banking and financial industries, learned they each had a long-held desire to open a bridal boutique. When they decided to form a partnership and started researching business opportunities, they discovered that the surrounding area had gaps to fill beyond a bride’s needs.
“The idea got a lot bigger,” said Melissa.
“We found there was a need for a center that caters to more than 300 people. We wanted to bring something as nice and as trendy as you find at a high-end hotel, for a fraction of the price,” Lyndsie added.
This coming Valentine’s Day, Fontanini and Schnoor will open the doors to a combined banquet hall and bridal boutique located at the eastern edge of Tiffin. Set in a backdrop of stunning mature timber with two rock-scattered waterfalls, the 16,800 sq. ft. building will boast an upscale pub, a walk-out patio and classic décor, earning its bella sala name, Italian for “beautiful hall.” The building will be designed to accommodate larger crowds of up to 600, or be divided into two smaller sections to host smaller parties.
In the same building will be Hugs and Kisses Bridal Boutique, designated by the logo XOXO. When brides are searching for the perfect dress, Hugs and Kisses will be able to offer them reception arrangements as well, including a list of preferred caterers, photographers, cake designers, jewelers and florists.
This “one-stop shopping” is the latest popular concept in the world of bridal couture, found primarily in larger cities like Chicago.
“It is designed to make a bride’s life easier, so when she buys a dress, she can book the reception and other professional services all in one day. We can literally get it done under one roof,” Melissa said.
Convenience isn’t just for the betrothed: the marketing aspect of making reciprocal referrals for participating wedding-industry businesses will cut advertising costs and increase sales. For consumers, bella sala will be available for other special occasions, such as graduations or birthday parties, proms, business meetings and banquets. The pub, open only during scheduled events, will be a venue for smaller celebrations like baby shower brunches, bachelor parties or business PMs. Hugs and Kisses, with an array of gowns and dress lines unavailable elsewhere in the area, will outfit not just bridal parties, but also prom attendees, gala-goers and girls turning out at Greek formals.
Together, Fontanini and Schnoor will manage and operate both the reception hall and the bridal boutique, slated for its grand opening on Feb. 14, 2010. It’s an ambitious project, they both acknowledge, but their combined knowledge and experience in the financial, business networking, advertising and banking arenas have already proven to be immeasurable assets in this new business venture, despite early misgivings from others.
“We’ve been traveling down this path so long. Some people said we couldn’t do it,” said Melissa.
Fortunately, there were also a number of supporters, who saw in them– and bella sala with XOXO– a perfect match.
“We walked into Tiffin, and everyone was here to help us,” said Lyndsie. “This would not have happened without the City of Tiffin, our investors and Solon State Bank.”
Though the 22-acre plot has just been graded and footings only recently poured, Schnoor and Fontanini are already on site, working from a well-appointed, stylishly-decorated construction trailer.
“It has been awesome,” said Melissa. “I am so proud to be part of a bride’s planning, and it’s nice to be able to offer a product that is affordable and unique.”
The two are accepting reservations for bella salla, since weddings are typically booked several months to a year in advance. Contact (319) 545-4255, or visit the bella salla website at www.bellasalaevents.com . Hugs & Kisses Bridal Boutique can be found at www.xoxohugsandkissesbridal.com .