The store was originally designed to sell only formal wear, such as prom dresses, bridal gowns and accessories, and tuxedo rentals. Martha Brown said the idea to sell men and women's clothing came as an afterthought when Belk announced its Harlan stores would close after the first of the year. Until then, Brown said, they had not realized the need for additional marketing in that area.
“If it expands and does as well as we hope, we'll go up with it,” Brown said, mentioning there were two additional floors overhead which could be utilized if the space was needed. The building, located at 111 Main Street, is owned by Bill Abraham of Abraham's Music.
“We're just going to wait and see what happens,” Brown said.
Both Martha and Boyd Brown feel confident they are in tune with the clothing needs of Harlan Countians.
“We retired from Powers and Horton after being there for 20 years,” Martha Brown said. “We retired in June, and we didn't like it at all. We had to go back to work.”
Prom dresses will be available in a variety of colors, styles and sizes. Catalogues are available for special orders in the event that special dress is not found. Special orders are no problem, according to Brown. If the right dress is in stock but is the wrong size, Brown said it can be ordered to fit.
Bridal gowns may also be special ordered. Brown said they have had so much experience with weddings, they are capable of putting the whole wedding together if it's necessary.
“People know me,” she said. “That's the reason I called it Martha's.”
The decision to open the store was an easy one, according to Brown. After serving local clothing needs for so many years, the couple was anxious to get back the public.
Brown also stated the location was wonderful since the Harlan city renovation projects have brought much-needed attention back to the downtown area.
Howard said he was glad to see another store move into the downtown area. Howard said it was encouraging, especially with the closure of Belk on everyone's mind.
“I really hate that a large store has decided to move out, but I think it provides an opportunity for small merchants in specialized areas,” Howard said. “This is an example of that”
“The more storefronts we have, the more foot traffic it's going to bring.”
Elizabeth Powell, director of the Harlan Revitalization Association, said she was thrilled with the Browns' decision to locate the store downtown.
“It reminds me of the stores I used to see when I was a little girl,” Powell said, noting she used to take piano lessons upstairs in the same building.
For more information on the Main Street project, Powell can be reached at 573-7698.
Martha's Formals may also be reached at 574-0000.