Story and photos by Michelle Baker

Middleburg has become a wedding destination for couples who want the breathtaking views and luxurious accommodations. Now, the town has a new store dedicated to bringing the families into town to shop before the vows commence to enjoy a different one-of-kind experience. 

Days before The Middleburg Bride opened on South Madison Street, people passing were peeking into the windows. Middleburg resident Lee Ann Adams Mikeman opened the doors for all to see her equestrian bride themed store complete with white riding boots and a Swarovski Austrian crystal jeweled riding helmet with a splash in August. A splash of champagne and a toast, that is!

All the eyes peering into your windows were truly peeking into your heart. Have the Middleburg brides fallen in love with the designer dresses and feather bouquets? 

They love our display windows which makes me smile. I had a former bride talk with me about getting her dream gown from our display window for her upcoming recommitment ceremony. This was important to her because she didn’t have the courage to stand up to family members 10 years ago.

She settled for a dress they wanted, but she didn’t love. Hearing stories like this breaks my heart, but it also reminds me of why I got into this business in the first place. To bring joy to our Middleburg Brides and help them fulfill their dream of finding the perfect dress for their big day! This is my daily inspiration and motivator. 

Funny story about the windows — recently, we had a Praying Mantis and Butterfly perch themselves on each window. They got more attention than the wedding gowns did, but we enjoyed their visit and hope it is a good omen for the store.

Buying a wedding gown should be a memorable experience but it can be quite the opposite. What do you offer brides to make the shopping experience memorable?

At The Middleburg Bride…With An Equestrian Twist, we offer exclusive two-hour bridal consultation appointments and are closed to the public during this time so we can focus our full attention on the bride and her guests. We provide champagne to celebrate the occasion and hors d’oeuvres to make sure our brides are relaxed and ready to shop. Staged in a 1930s storefront, our salon offers large private dressing rooms so the bride is not too far removed from her guests.

Finding the right dress is like a “horse race” so our dressing rooms are named after famous Virginia horses and equipped with voting paddles that guests can use to share dress preferences and gauge how the race is going. “In the Running,” “Scratch” and “Too Close to Call” are just a few of the voting options guests can choose before putting their Bride in the “Winners Circle,” once she finds the perfect gown! It’s a unique way to “Say Yes to the Dress” and one we feel is fun for our Middleburg Brides. We also offer plus sized gowns and multiple price points so every bride can feel comfortable shopping in our store. 

Your signature package offers a unique bridal gown shopping experience with an Equestrian Twist. Can you explain the package and how you coordinate with other local businesses?

Our “Bridal Gown Shopping Experience” Packages include door-to-door transportation and a tailored VIP itinerary for the Bride and her guests, so they can enjoy everything Middleburg has to offer. Based on the Bride’s interests, stops along the route are scheduled and can include event venues, churches, wineries, distilleries, restaurants, hotels, florists, shops (e.g., antiques, art, lingerie, jewelry, silver, equestrian, monogram, etc.), and museums, culminating in an exclusive two-hour bridal gown shopping consultation at The Middleburg Bride. One day or weekend packages are available; pricing is based on the VIP itinerary.

How did the the initial soft opening go?

The Middleburg Bride’s first Bridal Gown Shopping Experience Package was executed a few weeks ago and it was extremely successful. So much so that the bride and her guests posted 5 Star Google Ratings online, which we were thrilled to receive! The VIP itinerary we coordinated for this special bride was based on her interests and we executed the plan once it was approved. Pre-payment of all charges was coordinated in advance and the Bride and her party were greeted/treated like VIP’s at every venue they visited. Luxury chauffeured ground transportation was provided. Stops along the way included Common Grounds for coffee/breakfast in the morning, The Middleburg Bride for Wedding Gown Consultation mid-day, Le Boudoir for lingerie after the bridal gown fitting, Goodstone Inn for brunch, and Greenhill Winery & Vineyards for sunset wine tasting. And yes, she did find her dream dress!

When will the 2020 Designer Collection be revealed? 

We are attending the Fall Bridal Market in NYC in early October and will come back with some great collections for the Fall 2020 season! Currently, we carry Dany Tabet and BECCAR, both are exclusive to The Middleburg Bride and can’t be found anywhere else in the region. We also carry Amsale and Nouvelle Amsale out of NYC. In addition, we carry The Middleburg Bride Private label which we procure directly from the manufacturer. This gives us greater control over the product and allows us to offer a more reasonable price point with the same quality as top-tier designers in the industry. In addition, we will continue to offer one-of-a-kind accessories including bling brooch bouquets from Europe, Turkey Feather bouquets from the US, jewelry, headpieces, belts, shoes, purses and unique equestrian pieces from around the world. 

The Middleburg Bride carries more than dresses for the brides. Tell me about that special section in the back of the store – Audrey’s Corner?

Audrey’s Corner honors my beloved mother, Audrey Conley, and her sassy style with vintage clothing and accessories. 

How has the transition from the corporate world to the entrepreneurial world been so far?

My 30-year tenure managing meetings and events for Leidos and SAIC prepared me well for the entrepreneurial world. Principles I learned then and try to live by now include — be passionate about what you do or don’t do it; treat others the way you would like to be treated; give back to the community; never give up. 

What has the reception from the business community been since your launch in August?

Warm, welcoming and supportive! People seem genuinely excited about the store. We are grateful for the positive feedback received from the local Middleburg business community and area residents. Middleburg Mayor Bridge Littleton and Director of Business and Economic Development Jamie Gaucher have been helpful facilitating introductions to local business owners through BizBuzz and other organizations. Patti Thomas (Landlord) and the Thomas & Talbot team have also been tremendously supportive and believed in my vision for Six South Madison Street from
the beginning. Looking forward to collaborating with our business colleagues and bringing more wedding related business to Middleburg.

What are the hours for The Middleburg Bride this fall?

Currently, we are open by appointment every day so we can focus on our brides while they are in the store. Same day appointments are also available by calling the store. 

Will you be holding an official open house or ribbon cutting soon?

Yes, we had a soft opening in August and are finalizing plans for an official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony with the Town of Middleburg sometime in October, before the holiday season begins. ML

This article first appeared in the October 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.