SEYMOUR, Ind.– Spring 2020 was supposed to be a season full of special events. But over the last several weeks, weddings, graduations, proms and other occasions have been postponed or cancelled due to the COVID19 pandemic.
Now, local business owners in the prom and bridal business are left trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces after being shut down in the middle of their busiest season. But at B.loved boutique, located just off US-50 (at 920 E Tipton Street) in Seymour, they’ve got kindness “in the bag” and they’ve found a way to share it.
We’re headed down to Jackson County to see how a dress shop is putting a little sparkle back into the world on this trip In Your Neighborhood.
“[Around] the second weekend in March is when we heard that something was going on and that they might be shutting down certain businesses in our community,” recalled Brandy Hampton, owner of B.loved boutique. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this could be really scary but I’m sure we’ll get past it.”
“Before we knew it, within the week… the governor came up and said ‘Okay, I’m sorry but if you’re not essential, you have to close,” she said. “I would’ve never thought I would have been at home and not working my business in the peak season.”
Normally, around this time of year, girls travel to B.loved from states away to find the perfect dress for their Cinderella moment.
But this year is no fairytale.
“It’s been very heartbreaking to have something that fills my heart every day that I do. Then, that’s stripped away,” Hampton said. “I miss my customers…my team. I miss everybody. And I knew i had to find something,” said Hampton.
And she did.
Hampton said shop owners like herself were in constant communication with other special occasion industry professionals via webinar [and other socially-distant means of communication] since the beginning of the pandemic. They continually talk through ideas, planning next steps and brainstorming together to figure out something they could do during this time.
“Somebody had mentioned that the fabrics that we had in some of our garment bags were actually the most used material for masks,” Hampton said.
After digging deeper, she learned not only was the non-woven material used to create B.loved’s garment bags the same material used for masks and mask filters, but the same company who made her shop’s bags actually made those medical masks as well.
“So I went and grabbed some the next day and I spent a little over an hour or so trying to figure out how many different ways we could cut it based on patterns I had seen,” she explained. “My daughter is 13 and…she had made some masks in the very beginning. So I was looking at her patterns and I matched them up with our bag and I figured out that if we cut it exactly right, we could make anywhere from 30 to 60 masks out of one bag.”
She even figured out creative ways to repurpose other parts of the garment bag for mask making, such as using the pink piping for tie-backs— which could be especially helpful now that elastic has become rather scarce.
“The top of our bags and the bottom of our bags have handles…and I figured that could even be added a couple of buttons to make extenders for the elastics,” Hampton explained. “I was really excited to see almost the entire bag was used except for the zipper. And then I was thinking i could even figure something out with that!”
Then, she called up her team with the idea of making bag kits.
“One of the things we love about our shop is actually being able to do good for the girls that are our customers,” Hampton noted. “So I said, ‘Here’s a way we can do it’ and they jumped on board….we did little bag pickups and they all cut several bags.”
Hampton shared the news about the kits on her Facebook page, thinking maybe she would get a handful of locals who were interested in getting involved.
But the outpour of support has been overwhelming.
“In times like this we want to help and serve just as we did when our business was open and thriving… especially [serving] those in healthcare and our Schneck Medical Center and Foundation Executive Director, Stephanie Flinn, has been very encouraging and grateful,” said Hampton. “It makes our hearts full again knowing we can honor these heroes by doing our small part to help.”
“And I’m really happy that my girls also get to be a part of something….that they get to do something that’s good,” she added.
Not only are they doing things that make the soul feel good, their efforts are making a positive, tangible impact in their community through the thousands of masks and filters created.
“When it’s all said and done, it looks like just with the ones we’ve done so far, we’ll have anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 masks that will be made from our bags,” she said. “It’s been a whole job just to keep up with who’s going to get the bags and how many bags and what pieces. But it’s keeping me busy!”
While it doesn’t fix the heartache of not being able to do what she loves at the boutique, it is a chance to do something positive for a world that desperately needs to “B.loved.”
“The old Mr. Rogers saying— I teach my kids this all the time— when things get scary, look for the helpers,” Hampton reflected. “We decided that we were going to be helpers.”
One message Hampton hopes catches on during this time is the importance of reaching out and spreading positivity— whether it’s through a simple text message, hand written card, phone/video call, or any number of means to check on one another and to remind loved ones that they are not alone.
“There’s lots of ways we can get creative about being social right now and just letting people know that we’re thinking about them or spreading a little bit of joy,” she said. “Whether you have a stack of bags or just a paper and pen, we can all do a little bit of something.”
Four Things You Need to Know About B.loved:
- B.loved is a special occasion boutique located in Seymour, which carries formalwear for prom, homecoming, pageant and bridal as well as tuxedos. The boutique prides itself on offering high-end quality and service to customers at every price point. Customers will travel from states away because of the top-notch experience with owner Brandy Hampton and her staff.
- A major challenge for dress shops like B.loved is when restrictions lift, some businesses will be able to return to business as usual. But for these special occasion shops, peak season will be over. While the future will certainly be challenging for owners like Hampton, they’ve found creative ways to still serve their customers, including offering “virtual try-on” sessions for brides and other formalwear clients.
- Not only are local shop owners struggling with a slew of emotions right now, but their customers are feeling the heartbreak as well. Hampton sympathizes with her brides with postponed weddings and the teens who no longer have a prom attend. So she and her team have been utilizing B.loved’s social media to find creative ways to help engage and boost their spirits– including inviting people to share their creative “Prom 2.0” ideas and asking current and former customers to share photos in their fancy attire. “It’s time to celebrate them and they deserve it now more than ever,” said Hampton.
- Over the past few weeks, Hampton and her team have been in discussions to plan their next steps for at least being able to meet with customers by appointment (when restrictions are lifted). She has also been in talks with members of her community as they brainstorm creative approaches for an alternative prom or special photo event that will allow high schoolers to get dressed up and celebrate.