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Shop Talk: Ava Clara Couture Bridal

By conversations, shopping, virginia beach No Comments


Several months ago, one of my closest friends asked me to be her wedding coordinator. Not only was I honored and flattered, but I was so excited. I’ve had a blast riding along with Tina to scope out wedding venues, experiment with floral arrangements, and shop for dresses — especially shop for dresses. =) In the process, we discovered Ava Clara — a local bridal boutique, and the shop where Tina found her perfect wedding gown and beautiful bridesmaids dresses.

Ava Clara is a darling little store, and the owners — Karen and Alex — are gracious, friendly, super stylish, and dedicated to helping every bride find her dream dress.

Over the summer, Tina invited me to an evening anniversary party at Ava Clara to celebrate their first year in business here in Virginia Beach. Local wedding vendors (caterers, photographers, musicians, lighting technicians, etc.) set the scene for a festive cocktail party, complete with delicious hors d’eourves, a signature martini, and the most amazing chocolate cake pops on the planet. While I was there, I had an opportunity to take tons of great photos and set up an interview with Alex and Karen (pictured below).





Lisa: How did you two meet?

K & A: We met when Alex was engaged and shopping for her own gown and bridesmaids, and Karen was her bridal consultant. There was a definite “click” between us, and we began working together shortly after Alex’s wedding. Sharing a common dream of owning a bridal store, it was definitely a case of fate that brought us together!

Lisa: What made you want to open your own bridal shop?

K: I’ve been in the bridal industry since college (I’ll date myself here by admitting that it was in 1996), as a manager and buyer for other stores. It gave me a lot of time to learn the ins and outs and think of all the ways I’d like to make things a little bit better if I could. So many brides shop in New York or D.C. Why couldn’t we bring those styles and level of service to Virginia Beach? I like to believe that we did.

A: Having planned my own wedding in the Hampton Roads area, I believed that there were plenty of things missing. With only one or two shops to choose from locally, I felt there was plenty of room for new ideas, offering designers not seen anywhere else and a fresh perspective on the bridal gown experience.




Lisa: What has been your most rewarding experience running your business over the last year?

K: It has been so fulfilling to see so many happy brides! The amount of trust and support that people have placed in us, as a new business, has been truly amazing! We had no idea how many brides we might meet the first year. To have been a part of almost 150 weddings and to already be getting referrals from our brides is a pretty great feeling! Seeing wedding pictures on photographers’ blogs or on our Facebook page always gives us a little chill!

Lisa: What is your favorite thing about what you do?

A: I love that I’m able to be a part of such a special time in a woman’s life. Every girl dreams of a wedding; to see such a happy time, and play a role in that is a dream job!

K: Bridal gowns are the ultimate game of dress up! Seeing a bride put on that dress that makes her feel giddy and completely beautiful is the best feeling ever. I could not ask for a better environment than a bridal store! We also love the bridal market, where we get to see all of the latest bridal trends, and choose which gowns we think our brides will love to wear.




Lisa: Any advice for aspiring business owners?

K & A: Dream big! Do what you love, and don’t let the naysayers get you down.

Lisa: Do you ever get inspiration from the web? What are some of your favorite sites?

K: All of the traditional sites, such as and are great. It’s also really inspiring to stumble upon brides’ personal blogs. They give a ton of insight into how women feeling as they go through their wedding planning- what stages were stressful, what did they not want to have end? We love the real, unvarnished stories!

Some of our favorite photography sites, like Echard Wheeler Photography and Ramone Photography Studio, are always good indicators of how a bride likes to stylize her day. We love to see all of the little details the pictures capture!




Lisa: Do you have a favorite wedding dress or bridesmaid dress right now?

K & A: Our favorites probably change everyday! Right now we’re loving working with the Modern Troussaeu collection. They are true couture gowns, custom patterning each bride’s gown individually. Each piece is one-of-a-kind, and made to a bride’s measurements. Gowns like this don’t really exist anymore!

We carry a range of designers, including James Clifford, Augusta Jones, Wtoo and more, with prices from $850 to about $5500. Our bridesmaid collections include Amsale, Alvina Valenta, After Six and Alfred Sung. We have worked hard to ensure that there is a gown for every bride’s style and budget, and that every bride can be an Ava Clara bride!




I hope you enjoyed my first interview! Thank you so much to Karen and Alex for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can visit Ava Clara in Virginia Beach at Renaissance Place Shopping Center (401 N. Great Neck Road). Appointments are recommended, and you can reach Karen and Alex via e-mail ( or phone (757-962-1466) to set one up.


The Porch

By virginia beach, weather One Comment

It’s such a beautiful night. It’s a little cooler than it has been over the past few weeks and it’s nice to be able to sit out here on the porch and write like I used to in the spring. I definitely spent most of the month of May sitting out here writing and reading and doing crossword puzzles. I can’t believe the summer has gone by so fast. It’s 8:40 and already dark out.

I should have gone for a run this evening, but I didn’t. Oh well. I could go now, but I think I’ll just sit out here and space out for a little longer. I should invite someone over for dinner sometime — we can eat dinner and drink a bottle of wine and just sit out here on the porch in silence for an hour or so. I think that would be a perfect little date.

I can’t believe I’ve been living in Virginia Beach for almost a whole year.

Better than a Box Full of Starving Crazed Weasels

By boys, conversations, food, memories, new jersey, roommates, virginia beach 4 Comments

One of the perks of living in Virginia Beach is that there is a Dunkin’ Donuts just around the corner from my apartment complex. So, whenever Allison and I get annoyed with boys, we just hop in the car and pull up to the DnD drive thru window to order up one of our favorite comfort foods.

I’ve always thought fondly of DnD. There were about seven of them within 10 miles of my house in New Jersey, so I think it was inevitable that I would become attached at some point. When the Classic Cup in Manasquan closed down, Jamie and I took to the Sea Girt location for our late-night, over-coffee conversations about life, and when the pre-Starbucks Coffee Coolatta was popular for five minutes several summers ago, Stacey and I thought the frozen indulgence was the perfect way to accessorize for any occasion. When I worked at Insano in Asbury Park, I’d always stop at the DnD on Cookman for a quick bagel (double-toasted with light cream cheese) if I was working a morning shift, and I must say, I’ve even used the occasional Apple ‘n Spice donut to say “I’m sorry” or “Good morning!” to a love interest. (Personally, I find the Apple ‘n Spice donut to be a perfect stand-in for the Hallmark greeting card.)

Over the years, the item I’ve fallen in the love with the most is definitely the Bosten Creme donut. I think I’ve become the Boston Creme donut’s biggest fan. The Boston Creme donut has been there to dry my tears, to make me feel satiated before bedtime and energized before work, and to accompany me during some of the most boring road trips of all time.

Of course, just like any friend, the Boston Creme donut is not always reliable. Most Dunkin’ Donuts run out of Boston Creme donuts by 10:30 p.m. I remember one time, in New Jersey, I was craving a Boston Creme donut so much that I called six Dunkin’ Donuts stores before I found one that still had some at one o’clock in the morning. I requested that they put it on hold for me and drove 10 minutes up Route 35 to retrieve it.

Similarly, the DnD by my apartment runs out of good donuts excessively. For example, they run out of Allison’s favorite – the Marble Frosted donut – all the time. Well, maybe not all the time. I do remember one drunken night we pulled up to the drive thru window with tear-streaked faces and a handful of change and thankfully, DnD had both a Marble Frosted and a Boston Creme donut for us that night. That was a lucky night.

Anyway, last night wasn’t quite the same as that night. Both of us were just a little frustrated with friends of ours – mostly her boyfriend and our roommate. We were sitting on the couch sulking in front of Pirates of the Caribbean and we just needed to get out of the apartment for a few minutes, so I suggested a Dunkin’ Donuts run. “We haven’t done that in awhile,” I said.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Allison said.

So we got on some sweatshirts and hopped in the Malibu to drive around the corner to the DnD drive thru. Whenever I pull up to the DnD drive thru window, I always feel like Weird Al in his song, “Albequerque.”

“Do you have any Marble Frosted donuts?” I ask.

“No, we’re out of Marble Frosted donuts.”

“Do you have any Boston Creme donuts?”

“Nah, we’re out of Boston Creme donuts.”

“Do you have any Bavarian Creme donuts?”

“Nah, we’re outta Bavarian Creme donuts.”

Usually the conversation proceeds until I ask for a Chocolate Frosted donut, which is usually in stock. Last night it was a little skewed.

“Do you have any Chocolate Frosted donuts?”

“Well, which kind? Chocolate Chocolate Frosted or just Chocolate Frosted. We have Chocolate Chocoloate, but if you just want Chocolate Frosted regular, I can go in the back and make them for you.”

“Make them for us?” I inquired.

“Yeah, we just gotta squeeze the chocolate frosting on ’em. It’s cool.”

“Are there any other Dunkin’ Donuts around here?” Allison asked.

“Um, I don’t know about that. I can just make them for you,” the genius in the window responded.

“Are you new?” I asked.

“I don’t know about that. I don’t know where there are other ones. I’m about to go to boot camp. I don’t give no shit about this frickin’ job. I don’t know about that,” he said.

“What kind of donuts do you have in there?” I asked.

He listed off a bunch of mumbled donut names that sounded vaguely familiar, but I was thoroughly confused. “Can we just come in and see what you’ve got?” I asked. Late at night, the front door is locked. Only the drive thru is open.

“Sure,” he said. “Come in. I don’t care about this damn job. I’ll unlock the door.”

So, I parked the car and we went inside to browse the donut selection. Unfortunately there was nothing exciting. “Do you have any Munchkins?” Allison asked desperately.

“Yeah. What ones you want?”

We ordered 25 chocolate and glazed Munchkins and got out our money to pay. “Don’t even worry about it,” the guy said. He sent us on our way with a box of free Munchkins.

“SCORE!” I said when we got to the car. “Free shit!”

“We got hooked UP!” Allison said. She opened the box. “There is way, way more than 25 Munchkins in this box.”

So, there you have it. Another restaurant fiasco that left Allison and I with some free donuts. (Yes, there have been others — a few at DnD and one at Smokey Bones that resulted in our group leaving the reastaurant with over a dozen free donuts.)

In all that excitement, were totally distracted from the fact that any boys had annoyed us in the first place. Mission accomplished. We plopped back down on the couch with the comforting feeling of a tummy full of donuts and a renewed appreciation for Johnny Depp and watched more of the movie until Allison’s boyfriend called. Of course they got in another argument, so I ended up going to bed, but at least there was like 25 Munchkins left in that box for breakfast this morning and for dinner later on tonight because I’m sure we’ll be annoyed again by then.

(And don’t worry, Boston Creme donut. Just because you weren’t around this time, doesn’t mean I’ve given up on you. Perhaps we’ll get together this weekend. It’ll be fun. Oh! And I promise I’ll never choose a Krispy Kreme over you.)


By roommates, virginia beach 4 Comments

So, I’ve finally moved into my apartment and I even have almost everything unpacked. Apparently, 304 has already turned into quite the cool place to hang out. We have ample couch space, enough dishes to feed a small country, and it always smells nice here due to the excessive amount of candles that Allison and I light on a daily basis.

We have a huge TV, a nice stereo, and two really neat lamps in our living room. Our deck is enormous – it’s almost as big as our living room, and our kitchen is just plain awesome. It will be even more awesome tonight when there’s a case of Bud Light and some more food in the fridge, but it’s still pretty cool at the moment.

In my room, I have my huge piece of furniture from Ikea that has three mirrored doors, a desk, a cabinet/dresser, a nighttable, and my bed. I also have my TV and TiVo mounted on the wall. It is definitely very Hawaiian in my room – as usual.

Robbie hasn’t moved in yet, but he and I will be sharing the bathroom with is decorated in pineapples and dark green. It sounds cheesy, but it looks really nice — I think the white shower curtain with green bamboo on it pulls it all together.

We’ve already been having people over for dinner and movie-watching and all kinds of fun stuff like that. Allison’s friend Candice was here from Arizona this week and Andrea will be coming to visit from Roanoke this weekend. You should come visit, too!

This crazy trip has got me feelin’: busy
And I’m singin’ along to: Valentine – The Get Up Kids