OGDEN -- An Ogden shop known mostly for alterations and dress-up clothes made by low-income women wanting to improve their lives will open Monday as a full-fledged bridal boutique.
Give Me a Chance, 2620 Washington Blvd., has been transformed into what organizers say is the most reasonably priced wedding boutique in the area.
The shop, now fully stocked with top-of-the-line dresses from Mary's Bridal, is prepared to offer the latest in prom, quinceanera, bridesmaid and wedding dresses, as well as tuxedoes and dress clothes for little boys.
"From the research I've done, we're the least expensive for new dresses," said Kandi Arellano, business and marketing manager at Give Me a Chance. "We have 2012-2013 dresses. We are the least expensive from here to Salt Lake City."
And the alterations still will remain a central feature of the shop.
"We are less for alterations, too," Arellano said.
The transformation was made possible with the purchase of a building at 2913 Grant Ave. in Ogden.
The new building will not only house sewing classes that have been taught by the nonprofit agency since May 2010, it also will be home to additional programs designed to improve the lives of those who participate.
"Low-income families stay in low income because of learned behaviors," Arellano said. "If we can help low-income families break that cycle of behavior to where they don't believe they can do much, then we can make a difference. ... These are people who have never really done anything other than what they grew up doing."
With a place where the classes have their own home, Sister Maria Nguyen, a member of the Catholic Daughters of Charity Providence of the West, has expanded her operation and now has targeted weddings and quinceaneras for her target market in making her operation a sustainable business.
Arellano said the idea is to make the nonprofit more sustainable with funds earned from the store supporting the charitable efforts.
"She wants to be self-sufficient, like a real social enterprise business," said Roxanne Peterson, speaking of Nguyen. Peterson is program developer and manager at Give Me a Chance.
Arellano said Nguyen's sister owned a wedding shop in Oregon, and Nguyen recently went to visit her, coming back with enough inventory to quadruple the offerings in the store.
Nguyen also has ordered the latest offerings from Mary's Bridal, Arellano said.
And the store also now carries catalogs from Mary's Bridal that will allow patrons to order the ensembles of their choice, even if they are not carried in the store.
Nguyen, for free, has trained dozens of low-income women to sew, with the idea that they could use their skills to make a living and improve their lives in other ways.
"She's more focused on the outcomes, self-esteem and behavior of students," Peterson said. But with additional classes coming soon, students will have a chance to gain skills, besides sewing, that they need to succeed.
Arellano said even if the students aren't interested in a sewing career, their lives change as they learn in the sewing classes.
"Learning something new and picking up a new skill raises someone's self-esteem and confidence," Arellano said, noting that once they have those attributes, they can apply them to other aspects of their lives.
"We are targeting people that don't have the money to go to school or who don't have the $50 to take one of JoAnne's classes," Arellano said.
The store will have an official open house Feb. 15.
The day's events will include a ribbon cutting by the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce, she said.
There also will be a number of promotions throughout that week that area residents who are interested in dresses or weddings won't want to miss.
During February, anyone who goes into the shop and orders a quinceanera or bridal package will receive 25 percent off their entire order.
A coupon that will be good for the week of Feb. 15-22 will give all those who purchase or rent clothing half off their alterations, Arellano said.
A highlight will be a chance to enter a drawing for one of the shop's most beautiful dresses.
Nguyen said she's hoping the publicity will educate people about the existence of her programs.
Sewing classes will start up again Feb. 25 in the new location.
Also coming soon will be computer classes, English as a Second Language and other programs.
"We're trying to offer a lot of supportive classes," Peterson said. "A lot do not speak English as a first language."
The new building has a space where a child-care center would fit, allowing mothers with young children to take advantage of Nguyen's offerings.
She's also planning an after-school program for children in need sometime in the future that will include reading, math, music and a sport.
"We will have a lot of classes, but it will take us a lot of time to do that," she said.
And her plans include eventually building a commercial kitchen, so those with cooking skills will be able to make their ethnic foods and put them up for sale.
But Nguyen realizes that her plans will take time.
"A year from now, you will come here and you will see a difference," she said of her new location.
The feature Nguyen is most excited about at the new location is a large garden area, where she plans to spend a lot of time, cultivating it to become an attraction.
"This will be a very fanciful place for women to find reflection and to relax," she said. "When we have money, we will build a water fountain and a gazebo."
And Nguyen believes the garden will become a means of earning money for her programs, as it may be rented out for weddings and other gatherings.
"We have plenty of room to do the work," she said. "We just have to find the money to do the programs."
Way into the future, she envisions an International Garden Cafe in her garden.
Nguyen said she hopes the publicity surrounding her expansion will get people interested in taking classes from her as well as volunteering to help run the programs.
The bridal boutique and alterations shop is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Those interested in any aspect of Give Me a Chance, may call the shop at 801-393-0100 or visit the organization's website at www.gmacutah.org.