ROCK ISLAND — Sheleigh Martin keeps doubling her pleasure — and her shop.
None of it would have happened if she hadn’t learned first-hand the plight of girls looking for prom and homecoming dresses, and seeing they might be priced out of them.
“My daughter wanted a really expensive prom dress, and I frankly kind of thought she was crazy when she told me the price of it,” Martin recalled of an $800 price tag.
“But then I went shopping with her and saw people are spending more on prom dresses than what a lot of brides wanted to spend on a wedding dress,” she said.
Now she has her own bridal and tuxedo shop, Celebrate, at 323 18th St. in Rock Island with a ribbon cutting planned July 10.
Two-and-a-half years ago Martin opened a 300-square-foot consignment shop, Celebrate, for prom, homecoming and wedding dresses in Moline. She moved it to The District in Rock Island and expanded it first to 600 square feet, then quickly to 1,200 square feet.
The July 10 move will provide her with 2,600 square feet, aided by a $15,000 incentive package from Rock Island. She said the city’s incentive package played a major role in her decision to relocate.
“Our original goal was to get a different location in Rock Island,” she said. “We bring a lot of business to downtown Rock Island, and it was very important for me to stay there. But I don’t know that it would have been possible without the TIF (tax increment financing) fund.
“I am a 9-1-1 dispatcher. I have a full-time career,” she said. “I don’t need this business.
“It started out as a love and a hobby, and I thought I would work six, seven, eight hours a week in my spare time, and it wouldn’t be that big of a deal,” she said. “Then it turned into being very well received to the point we are considering franchising.”
She says she also has designers from foreign countries wanting to work with her.
“We’ve gone from me being the only employee to a staff of six that’s more like family — with each other and our customers,” she said. “This was a dream of mine for over nine years, and I never really thought I would do it.
“For a girl who never worked retail in her life, this is kind of exciting,” she said.
What’s also exciting has been her business’ growth of 384 percent in the last quarter alone. Her store gets as many as 200 visitors on a Saturday, she said.
Her new location has six fitting rooms, bridal suites and viewing areas. The space was renovated in about a month’s time with the help of family and staff.
Celebrate also is a tuxedo shop, and Martin she strives to help young men who might not be able to attend big high school events because of the costs.
“For me, it’s really out of love,” she said. “It started out as a need that I saw. But it really just came down to the girls that I can help that wouldn’t really be able to go to a dance.
“And for the girls that can afford it, what do you do with those (dresses) afterward?”
The Rock Island High School graduate, who has lived most of her life in the city, said she’s thrilled to stay downtown.
“We very much hope we can be a part of growth and positivity for our city and other small business owners,” she said.