BY ETHAN FORMAN STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — DANVERS — After 60 years as a downtown fixture, Lorraine Roy Designer Collections, a shop that generations of women have used to find that special dress for that special occasion, is closing its doors.
After its most profitable year ever, owner Jeanne Hennessey of Danvers has sold her mother-of-the-bride and special-occasion dress business to the Bella Sera Bridal boutique on Route 114. Lorraine Roy will be folded into Bella Sera’s space upstairs at 85 Andover St., above Giblees menswear and tuxedo stores. It’s being billed as a boutique within a boutique and will be called Lorraine Roy at Bella Sera.
The owners of the privately held boutiques would not disclose the terms of the deal.
Hennessey plans to stay on as a consultant, and her four employees plan to join Bella Sera, which has 13 employees of its own.
Bella Sera Bridal had been growing at a 30 percent rate recently, but this year, its growth rate leveled off to 20 percent, said owners Lisa Almeida of Andover and Heidi Nicholson of Derry, N.H. They expect that the addition of Lorraine Roy will double their business in two years.
A former owner of a family-owned management consulting business, Hennessey has owned the business for the past five years and had worked there two years before that. She bought the business from former owner Donald Roy, who she said told her she would be the one to take the business to its next level.
“And I think this is taking it to the next level, so it’s mission accomplished,” Hennessey said.
When the merger of the two businesses is complete, this shopping plaza along Route 114 will become a one-stop shop for the bride, the bridal party, the mother of the bride and the groom searching for a tux downstairs at Giblees.
The deal was spurred because Hennessey’s lease was expiring in December. Her 3,200-square-foot shop is bursting at the seams, she said, and customers were having a hard time finding a parking space downtown.
Hennessey said people have already inquired about the loss of the beautiful display of dresses in the shop’s windows.
“There will be a void in Danvers Square,” she said. “However, the parking is only an hour, and it takes more than an hour to buy that dress for a special occasion.”
Lorraine Roy is a destination shop, drawing customers from all over New England, so parking is key. Parking is not a problem at Bella Sera, Hennessey said.
The owners of both dress shops are already used to referring business to one another. Bella Sera Bridal has been in business for eight years and moved to its present location from Middleton almost three years ago. Hennessey said she had been in discussions with the landlord of 85 Andover St. to move to the plaza and had been speaking with Bella Sera Bridal about how their shops could work in tandem. Hennessey said that over the years, both shops made sure not to step on one another’s toes.
“As we got to know each other, I thought it would be best if everything came under one roof, and I approached them about it, and I think it’s a great idea,” Hennessey said. “Everything will be right here.”
At first, there was some reluctance on the part of Bella Sera’s owners, but they came around to the idea that a union of the designer clothing lines of Lorraine Roy and Bella Sera made sense. Now, Bella Sera will be able to specialize in mother-of-the-bride and other special-occasion dresses they could not carry before.
“We are just kind of getting settled,” Nicholson said. “But we sat and talked about it. This is the part that we are missing. We haven’t been able to get the mom’s portion of the business right. To be able to have it under one roof is very appealing for brides, who have said to us, over and over: ‘Gee, I wish you had more to pick from.’”
Nicholson said customers who know about the merger are excited.
“They are smart businesspeople,” Hennessey said of Bella Sera’s owners. “They know the order they need to do things in. It’s nice to know my business is going to be in the hands of people who are methodical and think things out.”
Hennessey, who has raised close to $300,000 for various charities over the years, is continuing her charitable work with “Illusions,” a fashion event at the Danversport Yacht Club on Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. to benefit the breast oncology program at the Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center. Tickets are $75. To learn more, you can go to www.lorraineroy.com or call 978-774-0825.
Bella Sera’s owners said they intend to carry on with such charitable work, albeit at a smaller scale at first. In July, Bella Sera Bridal took part in a nationwide Brides Across America event, giving away free bridal gowns to military brides.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.