By Danielle Wong Moores
Photography by Jane Kortright
When she was a little girl, Jane Ellaissi would ride four hours on a Greyhound bus from Atlanta to Augusta to visit her grandmother, Louise, a bridal consultant at J.B. White’s on Broad Street. Louise, impeccable in her beehive hairdo and smart black eyeglasses, would be waiting at the station for her. Then, more often than not, she would bring Jane back with her to work. Wide-eyed, Jane remembers sitting in a corner of the bridal department, gazing out at a sea of gleaming white, sparkling crystal and delicate lace: “It was just like being in Cinderella’s palace,” she says.
That’s the experience that Jane hopes to give her brides as co-owner and founder of Elegant Bridals, which recently moved to its third and final retail store location on Riverwatch Parkway.
The bridal and special occasions destination is a passion project for Jane and her husband, Fathy, who opened Elegant Bridals in 2001. In their previous lives, Fathy was a hospital administrator and Jane was a middle school teacher. “But I’ve always been an entrepreneur,” says Fathy, who early in his career ran a lawn care business and owned and managed apartments. “And bridal gowns were in my blood,” adds Jane with a laugh.
They didn’t know what they didn’t know. So in 2000, they started writing a business plan, with a vision of giving every bride-to-be a beautiful shopping experience. Then the connections started coming.
Fathy’s secretary was a neighbor of Linda Reynolds, who ran Brisch’s, a bridal shop in North Augusta that had recently closed; Reynolds gladly shared her insights with the couple. A friend from church worked in retail for a local department store, and over lunch, Jane picked her brain on personnel and salaries.
After praying deeply about it, Jane and Fathy asked another church friend, Traci Figgins, to serve as manager — which happened to be the new job opportunity Figgins herself had been praying about. Their banker, Pat Blanchard, approved financing, with this stipulation: Keep your day jobs. “That was the best financial advice anyone had ever given us,” says Jane.
For 10 years, Jane and Fathy followed that advice, working full-time in their day jobs while also running Elegant Bridals.
Their first location opened on Washington Road in July 2001, transformed from a golf and jukebox store to a boutique, in the same shopping center as Social Dance and Dairy Queen. A decade later, Elegant Bridals moved to National Hills, just behind Windsor Jewelers. Then in November 2019, it moved to a new location on Riverwatch Parkway.
But what has never changed is Elegant Bridals’ vision, says Jane: “We wanted it to be for every bride, every body, every budget, every bridesmaid.”
Appears in the February/March issue of Augusta Magazine.
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