By CARL MARIO NUDI
Some cultures hold rites of passage ceremonies for their youth when they come of age.
For many Hispanic communities an elaborate celebration called a quinceañera is held to mark a girl’s 15th birthday.
On that special occasion the birthday girl dresses up in a colorful formal gown.
Locally many of the young girls shop for their gowns at Monica’s Bridal and Quiñce, 1610 Eighth Ave. W.
“On the day of the quinceañera the family typically goes to Mass and gets a blessing from the priest,” said Monica Trejo de Carrillo, who has owned Monica’s with her mother, Sonia Trejo, for six years. “Then they head out to the reception.”
A quinceañera can be held in a local fraternal organization hall, like the Elk’s Lodge, or in larger venues, such as the Bradenton Area Convention Center, Carrillo said.
“Any large hall that can hold a lot of people,” she said. “There can be from 200 to 450 guests.”
Similar to a debutante ball, the quinceañera “is both a religious and a social event that emphasizes the importance of family and society in the life of a young woman. It is celebrated in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in Latino communities in the United States and elsewhere” according to the online Encyclopedia Britannica.
Similar to a traditional wedding, at the reception there will be food, music and dancing.
The hall will be decorated with ceiling drapery, balloons, twinkle lights, and table centerpieces–’] all based on the party theme and colors, usually pink and white, Carrillo said.
“These are catered events and the usual types of food are served, like beef, rice and potatoes,” she said. “And also the traditional foods of the family.
“And there’s a cake,” Carrillo said. “They can be eight tiers high.”
For music the party can start off with a DJ as the guests arrive, and sometimes they have a mariachi band at dinner.
After the dinner there usually is a live band for dancing.
“A highlight of the party is the father-daughter dance,” Carrillo said, “and the crowning by the godparents with a tiara.
“There’s the parents’ pride and joy of introducing their princess to society,” she said. “They want to show her off to the world.”
A quinceañera can be as elaborate as a family’s economic means allows.
“You can be looking at spending up to $15,000 on a quinceañera,” Carrillo said. “And all the daughters of a family have a quinceañera.
“We’ve had families with three daughters, and we helped them with a payment plan,” she said.
“We don’t want them to struggle,” Carrillo said. “We just like to help.”
It is that kind of special service that brings repeat customers to Monica’s.
“We make it comfortable for the customers,” Carrillo said, adding that she has the help of her assistant manager, Ana Sanchez, in creating the relaxed atmosphere for the shopper.
“Ana’s been with us from the opening, six years,” she said.
“She helped out with the grand opening and getting things set up back then while I was planning my wedding,” Carrillo said.
“She’s wonderful,” she said of Sanchez. “I have letters from customers saying how good she is.”
Running a business was not something new for Carrillo.
“I come from a long line of business owners in our family,” she said. “My grandmother used to do retail clothing, and my mother and father have owned the J. T. Tile Loading company in Palmetto for 20 years.”
The idea of opening a bridal and quinceañera gown shop came kind of naturally, said Carrillo, who has a degree in business administration.
“My sisters and I would decorate small halls for weddings or birthday parties, and we would have repeat customers,” she said. “They sometimes asked if we had dresses or tuxedos or tiaras and other items.
“One thing led to another, and the customers convinced us to start the business,” Carrillo said.
Her parents, Juan and Sonia Trejo, have been in the United States for more than 50 years.
Carrillo went to Manatee High School because the family was living in Bradenton at the time, but all her siblings went to Palmetto High School after they moved to Palmetto.
She has two sisters, Joanna Trejo and Jessica Trejo, and two brothers, Victor Trejo and JuanDiego Trejo, who is a senior at Palmetto High School.
Carrillo is married to Thomas Carrillo and lives in Palmetto.
Since the opening of Monica’s Bridal and Quiñce six years ago, business has been steady.
“In the beginning it was booming because we were new to the area, then it slowed down,” Carrillo said, “but the last two years really started taking off.
“People are getting to know we’re here,” she said. “They come from St. Petersburg and Sarasota.”
Carrillo said they are now marketing in the Ruskin area.
“We’re trying to let people know in the Ruskin area we’re here and not that far out of the way,” she said.
Along with the bridal and quinceañera gowns, Monica’s carries all the accessories needed for the special occasions, such as tiaras.
“Our major customer base is the Hispanic community, but we want to expand our customer base into the general public,” Carrillo said.
She purchases the gowns through two distributors in Miami, Mori Lee or Mary’s.
Carrillo is working with a new distributor of quinceañera gowns and expanding into more prom and pageant gowns.
The Palmetto High prom is on April 18 and Carrillo is ready with a selection of prom dresses, corsages and tuxedo rentals.
“We always give a discount for students,” she said.
Although most of the gowns are made in New York and California, Carrillo said she does know how to sew.
“I do a lot of the alterations myself,” she said. “I learned from my mother.”
For more information about Monica’s Bridal and Quiñce call 941- 479-7818 or visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MonicasBQ.