When Natasha Valles set out to find her eldest daughter's quinceanera dress in 2013, she found that San Marcos and Hays County offered little in the business of boutiques for the occasion. With the opening of her own dress shop in the Tanger Outlets, Valles hopes to connect with and serve her community.
The name of the shop comes from Natasha Valles’ daughters' names, Geneva, Jadora and Isabella. GiJaBell's is a combination of their given nicknames Gigi, Jaja and Bella.
After going back to school at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for event management, Valles started planning her new business in 2019. A year later, she opened the first GiJaBell's location in July 2020 in Kyle, Texas. After outgrowing that location, the business recently moved and officially opened in the Tanger Outlets on May 26.
Valles said the evolvement of GiJaBell’s could not have happened without the help of her family.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck type of family,” Valles said. “My daughters definitely all have hands in pitching in by helping me decorate, paint and clean. This idea and concept was in my heart, but in the long run, it’s a legacy that I'm leaving for them to walk into and take it to a level that I never could.”
Before starting GiJaBell’s, Natasha Valles worked in the medical field for 17 and a half years with a focus on administrative work. Natasha Valles' job allowed her to engage with patients which in turn helped her find a passion for working in a social atmosphere. Although she loved providing customer service in the medical field, she knew that it was time to use her talents elsewhere.
Natasha Valles said she always had creative energy and with that, she wanted to have her own creative outlet that would not leave her stressed.
"I loved the medical field and what I did there, but this is a place where I can help people feel beautiful and it’s a happy experience when clients walk through the door because they always leave with a smile on their faces, and it doesn’t get any better than that," Natasha Valles said.
Although Natasha Valles was passionate about her plan to open a business, she struggled with getting clients to her Kyle location for the first couple of months due to COVID-19. In July 2020, there were few people looking for event dresses. Although she struggled to get foot traffic, she remained consistent and believed in her faith.
“We had to pause it for a couple of months, but I'm a believer in God,” Natasha Valles said. “I heard God tell me in his spirit that this was the time, and that I shouldn’t stop because a pandemic is here, and I should continue what I'm doing. Overall, I thought it was a blessing in disguise because that allowed me the time to figure out the quirks and kinks with the system.”
After a couple of months in business in Kyle, Natasha Valles assisted her first client, Ofelia Cortez, by helping her find a wedding gown at GiJaBell’s. Cortez had gone dress shopping elsewhere but said the customer sevice at GiJaBell's and their attentiveness in helping her find a dress is what set it apart from other stores.
"Natasha was just really down to earth, and I loved the way she handles her customers by being really nice," Cortez said. "If I was getting married again, I would be on the list to go to GiJaBell’s again!”
Natasha Valles' knack for helping others and organization comes from the times she helped plan and prepare her family members' quinceaneras. She also witnessed her mom create dresses for the events' Damas. On top of that, Natasha and Isaac planned their own wedding and she was able to customize her wedding gown.
Upon the shop's initial opening, Valles was grateful for the help she received from her husband, Isaac Valles, a senior software developer for Balfour and chief technology officer for GiJaBell’s who created the website navigations for its website.
In his job at Balfour, he is consistently amazed by buyers' eyes for detail and the quality time that they devote to selecting pieces for the store. Likewise, Isaac Valles cannot help but admire his wife's eye for creativity.
“That’s a very specialized field because not just anyone can do it, as it can make or break the company if the wrong product is chosen. I think she has a very unique eye for that, and it inspires me because she’s just very creative and selective with what she chooses," Issac Valles said.
Dresses sold at GiJaBell’s are handpicked by Natasha Valles and include designers such as Roz La Kelin, Calla Blanche, Allure Couture, Watters Designs and more. Clients also have the opportunity to get alterations and sewing done by a seamstress at GiJaBell’s.
GiJaBell’s originally only sold bridal and evening gowns but now offers quinceanera and Sweet 16 gowns. GiJaBell’s has in-store and online options for clients to browse and order dresses and accessories.
The business continues to expand with its plan to create a GiJaBell’s dress line that will include 10 to 20 quinceanera gowns. Natasha Valles also plans to hire part-time employees and fashion and design interns later in the summer.
“If anyone at Texas State is studying or going to school for fashion, we would love to talk to those people,” Natasha said. “We would like to bring them in as interns and get them a job that they’re going to be working in eventually, so that way they could get hands-on experience.”
All in all, Natasha Valles encourages anyone that wants to open a business to prioritize communication and stick to being committed to the business. For those wanting to pursue a career in the fashion industry, she advises them to listen to anyone with experience as most are willing to lend a helping hand with expertise.
“When you are developing a new relationship in the industry, it’s important to be honest, open and willing to listen as a lot of wisdom comes from those that have already been in the industry and have already had experience,” Natasha said. “Also, most businesses that are successful are those that remain consistent, even through trying and difficult times. Because if they give up so quickly and easily, they’ll never know their potential that they’ll have to go to if they don’t have some perseverance.”
GiJaBell’s is open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is located at 4015 IH 35 S STE 1040, next to Famous Footwear in the Tanger Outlets. For more information on GiJaBell’s, visit its website https://www.gijabells.com/.