From Madison Avenue to Main Street

Published 10:24 pm Friday, January 23, 2015

Maya Holihan shows off the dresses at Maya on Main.

Maya Holihan shows off the dresses at Maya on Main.

When other girls were dreaming of being princesses, Maya Holihan was spending her childhood dreaming of helping others feel like princesses.

While most children were cycling through a seemingly endless list of careers they wanted to have when they grew up, Holihan was growing up in Massachusetts with a singular focus: becoming a wedding planner.

Maya Holihan shows off the dresses at Maya on Main.

Maya Holihan shows off the dresses at Maya on Main.

She was fascinated with weddings. She loved looking at pictures and envisioning herself helping others plan their special day.

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But then: “You grow up, you graduate from college, you have bills to pay,” Holihan said recently.

Despite the circuitous route she took, Holihan still is achieving her dream of helping others feel like princesses.

“It’s wonderful to be just a small part of the dream and the vision that so many people have for themselves,” she said.

Holihan now owns her own bridal studio with two different locations. To her, the best evidence that she’s doing a good job is when a bride picks a gown she never would have tried on if it weren’t for Holihan and her consultants.

“I would never have picked this one,” Holihan recalled many a bride saying. “I’m so glad I have you.”

Holihan started her fashion career with Gianni Versace and worked there for 10 years. But she never lost the dream that had replaced wedding planner in her adult years: owning her own bridal store.

She moved into that realm after 10 years with Versace by landing a job with renowned bridal designer Vera Wang at her Madison Avenue store in New York.

“I had five interviews,” Holihan said. The Vera Wang staff eventually decided they didn’t have a position for Holihan, so they created one instead.

Maya Holihan tries a dress on employee Nora Clary at Maya on Main in Suffolk.

Maya Holihan tries a dress on employee Nora Clary at Maya on Main in Suffolk.

She was a selling and services manager briefly — “Basically, my job was to police the sales staff,” she said — before the bridesmaids director designed and Holihan got that job.

“I was actually in a few appointments with her,” Holihan said of Wang.

After two years at Vera Wang, she relocated to Norfolk and started working at Tiffany’s Bridal. At that point, the owners had 10 stores and lived in Richmond and were looking to sell their Norfolk store.

“I had told them what my desires were,” Holihan said. The owners made an offer six months into her employment, and the store was hers an additional six months later.

She changed the name of the store to Tiffany’s by Maya and later Maya Couture. In 2014, she opened a bridal boutique in Suffolk, Maya on Main, to sell off-the-rack dresses in discontinued styles from the Norfolk store. She also now stocks the Allure label.

With so much experience in bridal fashion, it’s unsurprising that Holihan wore three different outfits during her 2012 marriage to Navy helicopter pilot Bobby Holihan at the Water Table in Virginia Beach’s Rudee Inlet, despite keeping the remainder of the ceremony small and casual.

She wore a Pronovias gown for the ceremony, changed into a cocktail dress she designed for the reception and left in a pant outfit.

“I wanted it to be casual elegance, and I do think we achieved that,” she said. “We wanted to keep things really small and elegant.”

Holihan gets goosebumps when she talks about the privilege her job affords her.

“It’s extremely rewarding,” Holihan said. “Every bride has a different story. They come from different places, and they have different visions for what they want for their special day.”