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Peace, love and the prom
Frills and Fancies opts for fun during economic downturn
W BIZ FRILLS  FANCIES
Kelly Melson, 17, center, and mom Rene of Kennesaw ogle a prom dress shown to them by Frills & Fancies owner Scott Marchbanks. The Melson's were visiting Georgia Southern University and saw the store while driving buy. "I really love the one-on-one interaction," said Marchbanks. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
      With Kool and the Gang's "Celebrate Good Times" rocking in the background and tie dyed t-shirts on every employee, local merchant Scott Marchbanks has turned his bridal and formal wear store Frills & Fancies into prom dress central with a "feel good" theme guaranteed to put a smile on the face of shoppers.
       "We decided that this year's theme would be peace, love, and prom, and we have had a blast so far," Marchbanks said. "We have the music going with tie dye and peace signs everywhere. Prom is supposed to be a great, fun time, and that is what we want girls to feel when they come into the store."
       This is Marchbanks second prom season having purchased the South Main Street store from Sandra Hodges just year and a half ago.
       "I moved to Statesboro in 1997 to teach at Georgia Southern," he said. "I was an assistant professor in the college of education. I did that for four years before taking a position in the private sector in which I was on the road five days a week."
       Marchbanks said he was making dresses for pageant participants during that time and wanted to open his own dress store.
       "I had to make a decision choosing one field or the other, because I just couldn't keep doing both," he said. "So, I walked into Frills & Fancies and asked Sandra to sell it to me, and she did. I have loved every second of it. I could not be having more fun."
       Just before Christmas, Marchbanks began unveiling his inventory of 1500 dresses reflecting the latest in prom fashion.
       "This year, I bought some dresses that were a little more 'out there' than last year, in addition to placing a karaoke machine out on the floor," he said. "Three or four times during the day, our staff will get together on the karaoke machine and sing a little public service announcement about staying safe, but still having a great time."
       When shoppers enter the store, they are assigned their own "Frills girl" to help pick out dresses and secure one of 16 dressing rooms.
       "That is one of the reasons that I came here," said Cali Beasley, a Statesboro High School junior who plans to attend Southeast Bulloch's prom with her boyfriend Nathan Davis, a senior at Southeast. "I had a personal shopper who really helped me a lot. The dress just fits perfectly, and I am so excited. I can't believe we were here for two and a half hours. It seemed like 30 minutes."
       Marchbanks said he knows that people are having a difficult time financially, but they still want to "put" their daughter or granddaughter into a pretty dress.
       "I am very sensitive to that so we have dresses that range from $129 dollars to $400 dollars or so," he said. "We have layaway as well. There is nothing like seeing a young lady stand in front of the mirror with the 'perfect' dress on. It is one of the most rewarding things that you can imagine."
       Mindy Sims and Brook Burke opened J'Adore Bridal on Northside Drive in December. They also carry prom dresses and have had a very successful season thus far.
       "This past Saturday was so busy," Sims said. "Girls are coming in excited, buying their prom dresses. Even though everyone is exhausted at the end of the day, we are still having a great time."
       Sims said she sees a definite trend away from the traditional, solid long floor length dress.
       "We have so many girls that are buying the shorter dresses than before," she said. "Also girls are buying dresses with prints from patterns to animal prints. They are trying to look a little more contemporary."
       Sims said shoppers are continuing to buy some of the more expensive dresses even though the economic news is not good.
       "This past weekend, we sold a significant number of our more expensive dresses," she said. "Girls just want to buy the dress that they love."
       Marchbanks said he can see how important that "special" dress is to a young lady, so his store keeps a database of where each dress will be worn.
       "Each shopper can register their dress for three events," he said. "We will not sell another one of those dresses to someone who would wear it to the same event or prom. We want this to be their special night. It is a service that we provide, and I feel like in this economy, you need to be as service oriented as you can possibly be."