Phoenix bridal shop closes, leaving many scrambling

PHOENIX - Brides-to-be's and others are scrambling after their dress maker closes for good.

This is weekend is homecoming for many teens, and for 15-year-old Paula Varela, it's her Quinceanera tomorrow.

But when she came to pick up her dress, all she found was a shut down bridal shop.

"Nothing was there at all, no dresses, no nothing," said Paula.

Paula's parents have always dreamed of her Quinceanera, an Hispanic tradition marking the passage of a small girl to a woman. Their dream turned into a nightmare when they came to Thelma's Bridal & Tux to pick up her dress.

Thelma's, located near 27th Avenue and McDowell Road, had shut down without warning, taking with them Paula's dress and her family's money.

But Paula's story goes beyond a panicked teenage girl. Her day was also supposed to memorialize her father.

Paula is Juan Varela's daughter. He was shot dead during the heat of an SB1070 argument.

"It left my niece without a father," said Lydia Diaz, Paula's Aunt and Juan Varela's sister. "He had been planning this Quinceanera for her and even saved money."
When Juan Varela was murdered, Paula and her mother spent the money on his funeral.

Because she had no money, the first dress was donated to her. Her dress and crown were blue and white, symbolizing her father's love for the Dallas Cowboys.

"He loved me so much and I love him so much, that even though he's not there physically, he is going to be there spiritually," she said.

With her chances slim for finding a dress, Paula was hopeful, determined to have the party her father wanted to give her.

ABC15 tried several times to get  hold of Thelma's owner, but all of the numbers we found had been disconnected.

The last time the Varela family had spoken with bridal shop employees was a couple of days ago, when they told her to come in and pick up the dress.

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