A Quince Años is a big moment in a young Latina girl’s life. For St. Louisans, this usually meant traveling all the way to Texas, Florida or even Mexico to procure the elaborate custom dresses required for this festive occasion.
Until Bidi Bidi Bom Bom opened its doors.
Five years ago, husband and wife team Rafael and Racine Martir opened their shop to meet the needs of the growing Latino population in St. Louis. Rafael, who also works as a DJ, and Racine, who is also a photographer, had worked quinceañeras, the parties that celebrate a girl’s Quince Años, and realized there was a glaring void in the area.
“There was no place local where girls could get their traditional clothing,” Racine explains. “If a girl wanted to get a quinceañera dress, they would have to drive all the way up to Chicago or head down to Texas, or even go all the way back to Mexico. They had to go on a whole pilgrimage. So we wanted to bring the traditional clothing into the city and help grow our community.”
Racine, who is White, was introduced to quinceañeras through Rafael, who hails from El Salvador. She learned the ins and outs of quinceañeras through photographing the events and through Rafael’s DJ business. Before honing her photography skills and then branching out into boutique ownership, she worked as a science teacher. Racine and Rafael’s daughter is only eight, so they haven’t thrown their own quinceañera – yet.
“It’s on par to a wedding, if not more significant,” she says. “It’s probably one of the most significant events in a Latina’s life. They’re crossing a threshold from childhood into womanhood, and it’s a way for the whole family to come together and celebrate the accomplishments of this young lady.”
Preparations often include a custom gown, a crown or tiara, tuxedos, a reception, traditional Mexican food and choreographed dance lessons. While Bidi Bidi Bom Bom specializes in dresses, the Martirs can help coordinate all of this for a family.
“The first step for a Quince Años is to come see me,” Racine says with a laugh. “We also handle all the accessories that a girl will need. We handle the tuxedo rentals for her court. I think we’re like the Target of event planning: We do it all from limousine rentals to DJ rentals, photography, videography, photo booth rentals, all of it.”
Their dresses aren’t just for the fifteen-year-olds, either; they offer gowns for mothers and godmothers, dolls for her to present to her younger sister, and gold jewelry, which is a traditional gift for a quince.
In fact, Bidi Bidi Bom Bom now has girls coming to St. Louis for the Martirs’ services from New York, Florida, Texas and California. They also offer virtual appointments, so Bidi Bidi Bom Bom gets orders from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and El Salvador. Most importantly, though, the Martirs are serving their local community. They chose North County as their headquarters because it’s close to their home, but also because Overland’s population is 13 percent Hispanic or Latino – higher than St. Louis at large.
“The community is definitely growing every year. We started very small and quickly filled the need from there,” Racine says. “It surprised me how welcoming and how incredible Overland has been to us. They treat us like family. It was more than opening a business – it’s more coming into the community. Our customers go on to be family.”
The unique business name evokes a popular song at quinceañeras and is near and dear to Racine’s heart.
“’Bidi Bidi Bom Bom’ is actually the name of a song I love by Selena,” Racine says. “The chorus of the song is ‘bidi bidi bom bom,’ so when I was opening my business, that song kept coming up on the radio when I was working on my business plan and it stuck.”
The Martirs expanded their space last fall to accommodate more than just dresses, and they have been looking at spaces in Illinois to expand, with eyes on opening quinceañera shops across the country.
Perhaps Racine says it best on Bidi Bidi Bom Bom’s website:
“We want every girl to have the quinceañera of her dreams. We know how important your quinceañera will be. You will remember your quince for the rest of your life. It is so much more than just a birthday party, after all. Your Quince Años is a celebration of the incredible woman you are becoming. You’re only 15 once, so make sure your quince is a day you will remember, forever and ever.”
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