a person standing posing for the camera

Pandemic convinced bridal shop owner to leave healthcare for dream job

Amy White Business, Featured, Headlines

The windows of Mackenzie Lagarelli’s Mia Rosa Bridal Boutique in Middletown catch the light, and driver attention.

 

If you find yourself at the traffic light at Middletown’s Broad and Main streets on a summer evening when the setting sun is painting the sky above in pinks and amber, be careful to not look directly into the windows of Mia Rose Bridal Boutique.

The light glints off the bedazzled, diaphanous gowns on display in such a way that is so gorgeous it’s almost a traffic hazard.

“Oh, the view,” says Mia Rose owner Mackenzie Lagarelli, laughing. “It’s no accident that I always put my brides in these windows in the golden hour. Some of them say they won’t move until someone beeps. So, please! Beep!”

It’s also no accident that Laragrelli now finds herself traveling to Justin Alexander headquarters to handpick gowns for the spring and summer 2022 collection, styling Miss Middletown Teen USA Kayla Kosmalski, and joyously witnessing “yes” moment after “yes” moment.

It just took her a while to get here.

“Bridal was kind of always in the back of my mind,” says Lagarelli, who, prior to 2020, worked in the healthcare industry for a decade. But her mother, who passed away when Laragrelli was just 16, had a petticoat business. “The petticoats were in our living room, the basement, the bathrooms for steaming, and the brides were always coming in and out of the house … it was kind of magical.”

a person standing posing for the camera

Mackenzie Lagarelli left the healthcare field to open a bridal salon.

 

Not particularly happy in her healthcare career, the pandemic sent Lagarelli over the edge.

“Obviously the health care industry was strained, plus I was trying to oversee fourth grade virtual learning,” she says. “It was just all so challenging.”

She was also not that far removed from planning her own wedding when things kind of clicked: she was unhappy and feeling stagnant, and she wouldn’t stand for it anymore, worldwide pandemic be damned.

“I think I finally thought, ‘If not now, when?’” she says.

“In a weird way, the pandemic made me brave. Of course it was scary at first—I knew nothing about running my own business, and there is just an unbelievable amount of things to learn. But I distinctly remember the moment I said to my best friend, ‘I don’t think I’m scared anymore.’ I felt really confident about this leap of faith.” 

Her father, also self-employed, gave his daughter a crash course to get up and running. The first point of business, though—find a space—felt like fate, since Mia Rose’s location, home to the former Louis Marie Bridal Boutique, was vacant.

“We looked at a few different options, but this one couldn’t be more perfect,” she says. 

Next she started cultivating relationships with designers she wanted to partner with.

“I wanted to reach out, get to know their story, to learn from them, but also kind of ask, ‘Am I crazy?’” she says. “But everyone was so supportive, particularly my family during all this, and my fellow business owners downtown.”

While doubt crept in here or there, it all quickly vanished the minute when client No. 1 entered the boutique.

“Watching my first-ever client come in the first weekend we were open, and seeing the change in her personality the minute she stepped into the dress, that was the moment for me,” Lagarelli says. “It was like, ‘Yes. I am so in my element right now.’”

Mia Rosa Bridal Boutique went into the space vacated by the closing of Louis Marie Bridal.

Opening a business that centers on an industry that the pandemic all but shut down is paying dividends in a strange way—Lagarelli has two seasons worth of brides to look through the Maggie Sottero, Justin Alexander and Rebecca Ingram gowns, among others.

“All the brides who were canceled last season are looking, as are brides getting married this season,” she says, laughing. “So it’s been busy. We’re also facing a lot of interesting new trends that do boil down to the style of the dress, like intimate, backyard weddings, for example.” 

The boutique’s space, awash in a palette of soft pinks, warm champagne and whites, and bathed in a gorgeous natural light from the spacious front windows that would put Instagram out of business, feels fresh, elegant, feminine and chic.

It’s the perfect backdrop for a “yes” moment.

“They’re all so different,” she says. “Some girls do a little shimmy, others do a jump; sometimes I can tell just by the eyes because she’s wearing a mask that we’ve reached a ‘yes’ moment.

“I think something that sets Mia Rose apart is that I’ve really tried to offer not only a fresh perspective with interesting designers, but also to create a really inclusive environment in terms of what we have. Sample gowns in only 8s and 10s isn’t inclusive.”

Lagarelli notes she’s drawing clients from above the canal, as well as from New Jersey and Maryland.

“It’s a new vibe, when you consider that most of the bridal boutiques in the state have been operating for decades,” she says. “I really love our space, and half of me hopes we out grow it and half of me hopes we get to stay with this small-town feel.”

She hopes to begin private VIP appointments for bridal parties with champagne and giveaways, and will continue to nurture the other side of the business, which is a curated collection of gala gowns and tuxes. 

Laragrelli tears up at the notion of her store being an homage to her late mother.

“There is something so special for me about watching mothers and daughters come here together,” she says. “I just feel so lucky. It’s like a dream.”

 

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