Local Entrepreneurs Lynne Sammon and Amy Kent Say “Yes” to the Business of Their Dreams

Photos by Dailey Life Photography

By Sandra Bolan

It was like no dream she had ever had before. The dream was so vivid, it caused Lynne Sammon to sit bolt upright in her bed, in the middle of the night. That dream also ended up changing the course of Lynne’s life.

In the dream, she was the owner and operator of a bridal shop in the old NAPA building on Carrollton’s Rome Street.

“I know it sounds crazy, but that’s the absolute truth,” Lynne, 54, recalls.

At that time in 2014, Lynne, who’s a former civil engineer with a degree from Georgia’s Southern Technical Institute, now known as Southern Polytechnic State University, was working in the University of West Georgia’s College of Education Dean’s office.

Lynne sat on the idea of opening a bridal shop for six months before she told anyone outside of her immediate family – husband Brian and daughters Ann-Marie, 27, and Meredith, 23. Later that year, Lynne announced to her co-worker Amy Kent that she was leaving the university to pursue her dream – literally.

Lynne had no idea that, for more than two decades, Amy, too, had dreams of opening a bridal shop. But Amy felt too intimidated to jump into self-employment until Lynne shared her plans with her. 

Amy, 53, had no idea if Lynne wanted a business partner, but she knew she had to ask.

 “It took her about five seconds to say yes,” Amy recalls.

The pair of Carrollton residents knew they could make it work because they had enjoyed working together for the past three years.

“This just fell into my lap, but this is the happiest I’ve ever been,” says Amy, who is married to Bill and has two girls – Kami, 25, and Kati, 21.

Lynne admits her knowledge, at the time, of how to run a bridal business didn’t go beyond knowing how to sew, but she was confident in her abilities. She was a former busuness owner; she ran Brilyn Construction with her husband from 1996 to 2011, and she knew she had the business know-how to plan and estimate. 

“You don’t have a dream like that,” she explains. “If God didn’t want me to do it, he wouldn’t have given me the skills.”

Start Up

One of the first dilemmas for any new retailer is finding that perfect location, but for Lynne and Amy, that was the easiest of their problems to solve. It was, without question, going to be located in the former NAPA building at 306 Rome Street in Carrollton.

It was a building Lynne was very familiar with from her previous career. The Sammon Development Group, which was owned by Lynne’s husband and his brother, John, bought the 5,500-square-foot building in 2008. 

Lynne helped fix up the property and the company flipped it. 

There was something about the property, however, that stuck with Lynne. 

In 2014 she had the opportunity to buy it back. 

The intention for the building at the time was to rent the basement out to another business and then figure out what to do with the main floor. Her dream solved that problem.

DownTown Gowns is located at 306 Rome Street in Carrollton, Ga.

What’s in a Name

When Lynne and Amy told their families they were going into the bridal business together, they all jumped on board and gave them 100 percent of their support. 

For Lynne, this was her third business – the first without her husband, Brian, as her partner – but for Amy, this was brand new territory. 

Among the business decisions the women needed help with was the store’s name. A company name is often a customer’s first impression.

Initially, the pair had the words, “wedding” and “dress” in their company name, but they found those words too constraining. Then, one day, Lynne’s daughter, Meredith, just tossed out “DownTown Gowns,” and the name stuck. 

Lynne’s brother-in-law Craig Thacker, created their logo and helped with the appearance of the store.

Learning the Bridal Business

With the issue of the location and the name solved, the women had something else they needed to tackle – learning the bridal business.

They spent two years researching the bridal industry, which consisted of finding suppliers, designing a welcoming store and learning how to provide the best customer service.

They traveled around the country and visited 25 bridal shops. 

The most important thing they learned, however, was what they didn’t like about the stores they visited.

For example, DownTown Gowns prides itself on providing a personalized experience even before the bride-to-be walks in the door, with the creation of a personalized dressing room. This was something many of the stores they visited just didn’t do. 

Each client is paired with her own personal consultant, who assists the bride-to-be every step of the way – from finding the perfect dress, to deciding on a veil and all the other little details to complete her bridal look.

Each client is paired with her own personal consultant, who assists the bride-to-be every step of the way – from finding the perfect dress, to deciding on a veil and all the other little details to complete her bridal look.

For brides who want something a bit extra special when choosing that perfect dress, there is a private party room in the store that the bride-to-be can rent for $125. 

The room accommodates eight to 10 people and comes with its own consultant, a bartender and party snacks.

The women also extended their appointment times beyond the typical one hour to 2.5 hours.

“It’s important to build a relationship,” Amy explains. “It’s not just about the dress. It’s about the marriage and the sacrament of marriage.”

“It’s the most important dress they’re ever going to wear,” adds Lynne.

Buying a wedding dress is typically something you only do once, so Lynne and Amy try to make their experience at DownTown Gowns extra special, intimate and not rushed.

They also made the decision to not have commissioned staff. “It’s not about the sale,” says Lynne.

DownTown Gowns has roughly 150 dresses in stock at all times ranging in sizes 8 to 32, and they lay claim to having the largest selection of plus-sized dresses in West Georgia.

DownTown Gowns not only sells bridal dresses, but it also offers jewelry, apparel for flower girls, bridesmaids and mothers of the bride and groom, along with bridal party tuxedos for the guys. 

Once the big day is over, DownTown Gowns will also preserve the wedding dress. 

DownTown Gowns is also expanding its offerings to include giftware, such as personalized pillows, bags and wedding presents.

“When you sit still, you go backwards,” says Lynne of their decision to expand their offerings.

DownTown Gowns has expanded its offerings to include giftware, such as personalized pillows, bags and wedding presents.

Managed Growth

When the store first opened, the staff consisted of Lynne, Amy and one employee. 

The reason behind only hiring one employee was because they only had three dressing rooms at the time, something the women laugh about today. But it was also part of their master plan – to grow at a steady pace.

For any new retailer, no matter the industry, it usually takes around two to three years before there are any profits. But when DownTown Gowns opened in 2017, it was profitable from day one and has remained there ever since.

Today, they have four staff members. Lynne and Amy still work in the store full-time but hope to reduce those hours in the future so they can travel more.

Pandemic Changes the Industry

Many weddings are being postponed to a time when the world returns to something that resembles our former “normal.” But there are couples who are deciding to go ahead with their plans, even if they are significantly altered.

Today’s brides-to-be are having shorter engagements, surrounding themselves with mostly family on the big day and doing away with the big parties, according to Lynne and Amy.

“They’re thinking, ‘I don’t know what’s going to come tomorrow, so I’m going to do it today,'” Lynne says of the brides’ mental shift.

DownTown Gowns closed for a few weeks when they were mandated to do so early on in the pandemic, but that didn’t mean they stopped working. 

“When something comes, you just adjust,” Lynne explains.

Their Advice

“If you want to be a business owner, you have to be fearless,” Lynne says. “Fear will squash you. Just don’t be scared of it, if it’s meant to be, find a way.” 

“Research your idea,” says Amy. “Because not every idea is good one.”

There are also a number of resources available specifically for female business owners, such as loans, grants, mentoring programs and business support groups. The pair suggests finding these opportunities for growth and utilizing them. 

Special Customers

While every one of their customers is special to them, there are a couple of women who have tugged at their heartstrings just a little bit more.

One such bride was in her in 70s, and she was buying a dress for her second marriage. Her first husband had passed away a decade earlier. “She was just adorable,” recalls Amy, noting their clients are typically in their 20s and 30s.

Another woman who made an indelible impression on Lynne and Amy actually wasn’t a bride. She was a woman in her 20s with terminal cancer. She went to DownTown Gowns for a wedding dress she wanted to wear during a celebration of life party she threw for herself.

“That was probably the toughest one to get through,” admits Amy.

The young woman passed away shortly after her party.

Giving Back

Wedding dresses are expensive. But Lynne and Amy bend over backwards to provide local women with whatever they need. This includes giving discounts to women who want to get married quickly because their fiancées are being deployed in the military.

They also provide financial support to a number of local charities, including Circles of West Georgia. Circles of West Georgia is an innovative, community-driven way to affect poverty in the local community. 

DownTown Gowns decorates a room in one of the homes each year for the Circles of West Georgia Designer Show House. During this event, volunteer designers bring their own style and holiday pizazz to help inspire attendees to take their own Christmas decorations to the next level. 

The funds raised through the show house help Circles to directly assist local families in breaking the grip of poverty in their homes. Sadly, due to COVID-19, the event was cancelled this year.

A Dream Come True

What started as a dream has turned into a successful business enterprise. On October 31, DownTown Gowns celebrated its third anniversary in West Georgia. Due to COVID-19, there wasn’t a celebration this year, but Amy and Lynne look forward to celebrating with many more brides in the years to come.

DownTown Gowns’ service area extends into metro Atlanta and East Alabama. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Walk-ins are accepted, but they prefer appointments so their brides can receive the personalized experience they deserve. 

“My advice for brides is to not stress over the details,” Lynne says. “This is often what brides get hung up on and what hinders them from enjoying their special day. Yes, some things may fall through the cracks or not get done perfectly, but this is not something that should take away from the one special day when you marry the person you love. Slow down, enjoy every moment and don’t fret about the details.”

To learn more about Lynne Sammon, Amy Kent and DownTown Gowns, call 770.702.0530 or email downtowngownscton@gmail.com.

Follow them on Facebook @dtgowns, on Instagram @dtgowns_carrollton or visit the website at www.downtowngowns.us.

Models: Bride, Cierrah Dedman; Mother of the Bride, Chasity Dedman

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