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Bringing South Miami Beach to the Midwest

By Deirdre Ryan | Marion Times | January 14th, 2016

As Midwest temperatures drop below zero, why not warm yourself up with a little “Miami” heat? This week, Marion’s own South Miami [Formal Fashions] will open its doors to the public. This trendy and unique clothing boutique, located in a beautiful remodeled home at 786 8th Avenue in Marion, will definitely help customers spice up their closets and think “warm” thoughts!

Patrons to this new Marion retail business can find evening gowns, prom and homecoming dresses, shoes, dance wear, swimsuits, jewelry, and even lingerie.

In future months, South Miami [Formal Fashions] Owner, Maria Gilbert, will also begin to carry jeans, tops, dresses, and shoes, all from Colombia. These specialty items can not be found anywhere else in the area!

“I am a Colombian, full of positive attitude,” noted Gilbert. ” I will give the best to my customers. I welcome people from anywhere to come to my store … I want to make them feel comfortable here!”

Gilbert grew up in Colombia, and she met her husband, Gary, while he was in the country on vacation. The couple married and Gilbert moved here with Gary in July of 2003. Gary, originally from Stanford, CA, moved to Cedar Rapids in the 1990’s to work as an Engineer with Rockwell Collins.

Once Gilbert was settled in Iowa with Gary, she realized she needed something to keep her busy as well … a career that would be profitable, but fulfill her passion for fashion and friendships.

“I am a social butterfly … I like to meet all kinds of people and learn from them,” said Gilbert. “I’m also into fashion, and I used to model in Colombia. I’ve really always been into clothing, and I have my degree in Commercial International Exports and Imports.”

With those things in mind, Gilbert decided to open her own clothing boutique in 2004; something that would reflect the type of fashion that she enjoyed, apparel that was inspired from the warmth of Colombia, and would provide patrons with that same sense of excitement.

Gilbert knew that owning her own business would also benefit her in learning the American culture better, and becoming more familiar with the English language.

The first location of South Miami [Formal Fashions] was on Mount Vernon Road in Cedar Rapids, but Gilbert felt this location was not beneficial to her store, so she moved to a spot in the downtown area. Gilbert commented that she loved this area of the city, but after the flood in 2008, Gilbert’s boutique really took a hit. So for a few years, she took a break … focusing on her family, and raising her two daughters, Ana and Shandin, and her son, Liam.

In the beginning of 2015, Gilbert reopened South Miami [Formal Fashions] along Mount Vernon Road again, but she continued to keep an eye out for unique and intriguing properties in the Marion area… something that would really have the “perfect fit” for her.

Working closely with the Marion Chamber of Commerce, Gilbert came across this newly remodeled home for sale along 8th Avenue, and she jumped at the chance to own her business in this high-traffic location.

“I really wanted to try and make my business more successful,” said Gilbert. “This is something different that will make people happy. I am excited to have a successful and unique business here in Marion … I love Marion and I love this house. Marion is a neat town and my family lives here. I like to support the local businesses here, and I will bring in something a little different and unique.”

Gilbert’s goal for her clothing boutique, South Miami [Formal Fashions], is just as simple as helping her customers feel as good about the clothing and items they select as she does. She wants to provide a once-in-a-lifetime shopping experience, but an event that is comfortable and personal for each and every shopper.

South Miami [Formal Fashions] will be open Tuesdays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


*Business name corrected by Uptown Marion | DOWNLOAD PDF

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