Jefferson Boulevard’s wedding and quinceañera industry has thrived for decades

Poufs of tulle and sequined bodices of quinceañera dresses that fill the shop windows attract the eyes of any pedestrian on Jefferson Boulevard.

Quinceañera/wedding shops are a major part of the boulevard’s retail story.

A few years after the exodus of major retailers from Jefferson in the mid-1970s, Hispanic entrepreneurs began taking shop spaces there. Around 1979, the wedding industry first began to take hold with Rene Photography.

Rene Ramos Sr. started making bridal and quinceañera portraits in Corpus Christi in the ’70s, but competition for occasion photography was fierce. So the Ramos family moved to Dallas and found a spot in the 900 block of West Jefferson in the late ’70s.

“We were the first ones here,” says Rene Ramos Jr., who now runs the business with his mother.

Rene gained early customers with advertising on Johnny Gonzalez’s “Fiesta Mexicano,” a one-hour show in Spanish that aired on Channel 11 every Saturday.

After that, says the younger Rene, other wedding-related businesses began to move to the boulevard. Rene bought their current building in the 500 block of West Jefferson in 1980, and the elder Rene recruited a bakery and dress shop.

Lizcano Bridal Shop is another wedding business early to Jefferson. The Lizcano family originally opened their shop on Maple at Lucas around 1965. At the time it was one of the city’s few Hispanic bridal shops, says Carmen Rodriguez, the second-generation owner. They moved to Jefferson around 1979 and bought their current building in the early ’90s.

Rodriguez’s husband, Raul, and daughter, Rose, are certified event planners. It’s more than just a dress shop. They can plan whole weddings and quinceañeras from place settings to catering to venues. They do about four a week.

Lizcano is known for custom-made gowns and expert alterations. They’ve been in business so long that they’ve learned to deal directly with dress manufacturers in China.

“We were the first Hispanic bridal shop on this strip,” Raul says. “Now it’s gone viral. There are bridal shops and new venues popping up all the time.”

Unfortunately, startup bridal shops sometimes come and go from Jefferson, and that has caused bridal crises a few times when a shop will suddenly close, making off with deposits or dresses left for alterations. But most people know the reputable old pros — Lizcano and Liz, notably.

But there are newer bridal shops on the boulevard that have built solid reputations.

Mayra Orozco opened Celebración Bridal in the 100 block of West Jefferson in 2000, although her earliest memories are of being in her mother’s bridal shop in Guadalajara.

She’s a natural businesswoman who discovered Jefferson Boulevard while driving around lost one day. She popped into one of the bridal shops and decided she could do it better.

At Celebración, it’s not just about the dress, it’s about accessories. Every quinceañera queen needs a photo album, a guestbook, a bible and two pillows — a small one for presenting jewelry and a larger one for kneeling in church. They should all match, of course, and fall in line with her colors and theme.

That’s just the beginning. There’s also a doll or teddy bear, the last toy her father gives her, and the doll wears a dress to match hers. There’s the custom-made box for envelopes. The matching “little princess” dress for her younger sibling or relative to wear. The bedazzled stand for champagne glasses. The tiara. The bouquet.

All of these things can be customized and perfectly matched. Some families spend as much as $25,000-$30,000 on their daughter’s quinceañera, says Raul Rodriguez. But the average cost is $8,000-$10,000.

After a divorce a few years ago, Orozco decided to expand. Her original shop is just east of Zang, and she noticed that shoppers on Jefferson don’t typically cross Zang. If they park on her side, they shop on her side, and vice versa. So she bought a second store, Bling Bling, across Zang in the 200 block of West Jefferson. She can stand outside of Celebración and see Bling Bling’s front door, but each shop draws different customers.

Last year, she bought Jefferson Bridal as well.

As a single mother of two children, ages 11 and 17, and with no family in the area, Orozco works like she’s going to go broke at any moment. Her mini empire employs nine women, including three managers and six seamstresses, and she rents out a space inside Bling Bling to a wedding photographer as well.

Although she’s bought her other two buildings, Orozco says her landlord at Celebración won’t sell.

“It’s not easy, believe me,” she says. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of money. But I don’t want to work for anyone else. I love business.”