DALLAS — Bella Bella’s economically friendly mix of stylish looks, generally priced from $40 to $150, already put the newcomer on the expansion path.
This story first appeared in the March 20, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Opened in October at the trendy West Village center here, Bella Bella has contracted to expand its 1,800-square-foot space with an additional 800 square feet next door.
“We’ve been doing really well since we opened and the prices impress everybody because they can get a shirt for $39 or $49,” said Diana Tabeshi, who manages the store with her sister, Angie Amadi. “Some people buy an outfit every weekend.”
Owners Roberto Tabeshi and Michael Jay got the idea for Bella Bella from their five years of experience running Startex Enterprises, a contemporary firm based in Los Angeles that imports and sells through distributors to such specialty chains as Rampage.
“We decided to try the retail market and see where this will take us, and we figured Dallas was a growing market,” Jay said. “We plan to have a big chain of stores and this is our pilot.”
The entrepreneurs plan to open five Bella Bella units in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex within the year and expect to have 25 stores in 10 states within the next two years. Potential locations in the Metroplex are Fort Worth, South Lake and the Lovers Lane strip, and Preston Plaza in Dallas, they said, followed by Austin, Houston and San Antonio.
The partners are concentrating on areas that, so far, have been passed over by the big European chains Zara and Hennes & Mauritz, which also offer trendy styles at moderate and better prices. Bella Bella’s main competition will be junior-oriented fashion chains, such as Rampage, Gadzooks, Wet Seal and Charlotte Russe.
In addition, Dallas and other major Texas cities are already saturated with independent contemporary stores that target a similar fashion customer, but those boutiques typically have higher price points than Bella Bella. Tabeshi and Amadi, who were personal shoppers in Los Angeles before relocating to Dallas, will manage the chain.
So far, sales at West Village have exceeded their expectations at well over $500 a square foot. Future Bella Bella units will be about 2,000 square feet and are expected to pull in at least $500 a square foot, the partners said. The store’s merchandise is different from that sold by their wholesale firm, Tabeshi and Jay stressed.
“Our concept is quality at an affordable price,” Jay said.
Key styles included a crisp, white cotton skirt with a tulle underlay for $60, a black flocked chenille spaghetti-strap dress with a fringed hemline for $99, and a black pinstripe, stretch-cotton blouse at $49 over a bias-cut seamed skirt with a jagged hemline for $59.
“This is the business that works at this time because people don’t want to spend a lot of money on brand labels,” Tabeshi added.