At Bella Mar, a store opening is a family affair. Owner Mercedes Rico has a love for fashion that she developed over years of shopping with her mom, Lisa. Exploring stores together & discovering the latest trends was how they connected, how they built a friendship. It didn’t take much time in the corporate world or driving on long commutes to RTP to make Mercedes realize that her passions would never be fulfilled sitting in a cubicle. And after years of bonding through retail therapy, it made perfect sense for Mercedes & Lisa to turn their favorite leisure activity into a family business. In 2016, they opened the first Bella Mar retail boutique in Wendell, with a plan to expand to Raleigh down the road. And that day has arrived! Bella Mar joined us in Cameron Village a few months ago, and the newest venture has already gotten off to a fantastic start.
The name Bella Mar means beautiful sea in Spanish, but it’s also a nod to Mercedes’ personal connection to the store; Mercedes’ initials are MAR. Even in the name, she’s giving a piece of herself to the business. But it’s not just Mercedes who put her heart into the store. The store wouldn’t have the cool modern-meets-industrial vibe without the contributions of her entire family. Her father is in the construction industry, and he guided much of the renovation work. They spent months working as a family to transform the space from top to bottom; his quality craftsmanship can found in every aspect. He removed the dropped ceiling panels to give the store an urban loft feel with exposed ductwork. He pulled up dated flooring tiles and laid down concrete in a gorgeous high-gloss finish. Mercedes had a vision for the aesthetic, and he created it through exposed painted brickwork on the walls and through the granite-topped checkout counter he crafted by hand. Even friends were called into action – one friend welded floor-to-ceiling clothing racks and another put up cool, funky racks that hang from the ceiling on chains.
Customers really notice the details and seem to appreciate that shopping there isn’t just a place you zip in, grab a new outfit, and run. It’s an experience, a place to linger and explore, a place to discover the latest looks. Bella Mar style is focused on trendy fashion; they cater to the girl who knows what looks will be hot before the season even starts. And while the look is certainly fashion-forward, Mercedes wants to create easy to wear, everyday clothing that real women can wear with comfort. Some of her favorite outfits right now are split leg jumpsuits; the one piece look effortlessly makes you ready for a night out on the town. You will find lots of boho chic trends, flowy and feminine and fun. Top brands include unique options like Band of Gypsies, Somedays lovin’, and Sage The Label.
Social media is a big part of her inspiration and her outreach. She looks to fashion bloggers for the latest styles; her customers often find her on Instagram. Not local? If you find something you love on her Insta, she can ship it!
The store is already finding a niche in Cameron Village, and clearly Mercedes has found her true calling. She loves creating a shopping experience that is fun and positive, helping people feel good about themselves. “When mothers & daughters come in and shop together, I see so much of myself & my mom. It’s a good connection,” she says with a smile. And Bella Mar is already getting repeat customers, which gives her a good feeling. It means that her goal – to focus on the experience of shopping, not just the products – is becoming a reality.
The move to Cameron Village has been a dream come true. When she began planning for her second store, she longed to find a place here, but assumed the wait would be years long. She’d shopped in Cameron Village and saw it as hot market for fashion. But in a stroke of luck and perfect timing, the ideal spot between Cantina 18 and Bailey’s Fine Jewelry opened up just at the right moment. Mercedes says “I’m so lucky to have found a spot here in Cameron Village!” But the truth is, we think we’re pretty lucky to have snagged this growing boutique. Come by to check it out!