Without a doubt, wedding gowns and prom dresses are the staples of Country Formals & Gifts in Hillsville. But if you walk into the business on 211 N. Main Street expecting to find just formal wear, expect to be blown away.
Ranging the gamut from Carroll County-themed gifts, books and movies for children, home decorating items, a full Christmas line, Melissa and Dog toys, stuffed animals, casual clothes, shoes, and items featuring favorite area collegiate teams, Country Formals & Gifts is packed to the gills with just about anything you can possibly think of.
“A lot of the local folks when I see them out say, ‘I’d love to shop with you but I don’t need a wedding gown or I don’t need a formal.’ A lot of people think we are just a wedding shop or formal shop, but we are much more than that,” said owner Lora Terry. “Then when people come in they are like, ‘Wow, I had no idea this place was this big, and I had no idea all that was in here.’”
Country Formals & Gifts reopened for business in Hillsville on Oct. 1 after Terry bought the business from former owner Lauren Chitwood. Immediately, Terry and her family went to work trying to offer many new items to compliment the business’s wide range of wedding gowns and prom dresses.
Chief among those items are several Carroll County-themed gifts. Terry is especially excited about a line of fine teas based on the Carroll County Courthouse shootout of 1912. Called “Picking The Red Ear,” based off the red ear corn that supposedly sparked the events that led up to the infamous courthouse tragedy, the line features flavors such as “pinhead gunpowder” as well as more traditional tastes such as ginger, jasmine, peppermint and blackberry, among others.
“On the package it says it is especially blended for Carroll County and only sold at Country Formals & Gifts,” Terry said. “(Local author and playwright) Frank Levering was here and he was excited about it because he is planning on doing the (courthouse) play again. This is also something that will be a nice gift if somebody wants to mail it off because it doesn’t weight much. It’s a good Carroll County gift.”
Also unique to Country Gifts & Formals is a line of jams and candies featuring photographs of the historic Carroll County Courthouse on the bottle. Cherry and blackberry jams are available in 11-ounce and 3-ounce jars. Candies in the same line come in mint and caramel, also featuring the local courthouse on the bag, while a Chocolate River Rock candy is themed to look like items you would find on the Beaver Dam Trail, which is also pictured on the bottle.
“These were made specifically for us. I choose blackberry and cherry because both of them are native to our area,” Terry said. “These are just things trying to promote our area. I am also working on postcards with photographs of the Carter House, the courthouse, the Sidna Allen House, and shots of the Blue Ridge Parkway.” Faith-based items are also popular at Country Formals & Gifts. A new line of award-winning books and movies for children is now available. Terry said the line came from a Christian group who prayed with the family before selling the items to them.
Many home décor items are available at the Hillsville business, including wooden letters that are popular among shoppers. They can be used to spell out a child’s name in front of family photos or things of that nature, Terry said. Christmas items are available year-round at Country Gifts & Formals, including an upcoming Christmas in July event when all Christmas items will be 50 percent off.
Melissa and Doug is a line of American-made toys that are popular with the store’s customers because of their educational value. Currently, Melissa and Doug items are 15 percent off for Easter.
While that is just the tip of the iceberg of the wide variety of items offered at Country Gifts & Formals, wedding gowns and formal wear will always be its biggest sellers. Ironically, Terry said a large portion of her customers come from out of town.
Currently in the middle of the prom season, she said she is seeing many excited prom-goers from Grayson County, Galax, Floyd and Pulaski, even Winston-Salem, N.C. Social media website facebook has been fantastic in helping her promote the business to younger customers, said Terry, who recently offered 10 percent off any purchase to anybody that came in with a ticket from Carroll County’s Group AA boys’ basketball game in Salem.
Bargains can also be found as several prom dresses left from last year are available at heavily discounted prices. Another cross promotion with Ideal Florist will allow ladies who buy their dresses at Country Formals to get a free boutonniere for the guy, and a discount on corsages for the gal.
Speaking of discounts, brides-to-be in the market for wedding gowns can find some sweetheart deals at Country Formals & Gifts. Taking advantage of several closeout gowns from Alfred Angelo, the shop’s biggest wedding gown designer, Country Gifts & Formals is offering gowns for $249.99 that retailed anywhere from $979 to $1,700.
“I have had brides call me from Wilmington, and I sold one to a lady in Burlington. I have brides coming down from Pennsylvania looking at these gowns,” Terry said. “Over the last week I have sold five of those.”
The newest wedding gowns are always available at the shop, but discontinued gowns are also available for bargain prices. A staging area is available for the wedding party to sit and relax while the bride-to-be tries on her wedding gown candidates.
“We have cool drinks for them to have while they are sitting here watching or taking pictures. It’s a nice area,” Terry said. “We also have mother-of-the-bride dresses as well.”
A new line of casual clothes is also available and make good outfits for attorneys and secretaries, or even for a funeral.
“If they want a new outfit, they just step down here buy them a new outfit. Or if there is a sudden death in town and you need to pick up a new outfit to go to a funeral, you don’t have to run to Mount Airy or Christiansburg,” Terry said. “You just drop in here and get you a new outfit.”
To help with cost, Country Gifts & Formals also offers layaway with no interest. If you are looking for a gown for a second wedding or a not-so-fancy wedding, the business also offers nice wedding gowns for slightly over $100. Tux rentals are also available for guys, and suits can be ordered for purchase as well.
If you are curious what your potential wedding gown or prom dress will look in the latest Sari or Betty, shoes are also available at the business.
“A lot of times they will be trying on a dress and the girl will wonder what it looks like with a shoe,” Terry said. “I’ll get them some shoes to try on and they will say, ‘I love the way this looks,’ and we will go ahead and sell the dress and shoes together.”
But again, if wedding gowns and prom dresses aren’t your cup of tea, you can find a new line of homemade soaps, perfumes and bath gels called Blue Haven, made in Virginia. Or perhaps something like Eat and Explore Virginia, a book featuring recipes from celebrations all across Virginia, is more suited to you. Regardless of what you are looking for, you can probably find it at Country Gifts & Formals.
“If somebody is looking, they can step in and get nice little gifts for their family members. Currently there are a lot of things our Hillsville people don’t know about, but a lot of other people from out of town have taken advantage of,” Terry said. “When most people do come in, they become repeat customers.”
Country Formals & Gifts is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday. Appointments are available by request.