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Formal Connection fits community: Event wear headquarters has kept St. John looking good for over 3 decades

LAPLACE — In 33 years of operating Formal Connection in LaPlace, Ronnie White has learned every customer has a unique style.

A listening ear and top notch service are essential to pair customers with formal wear they can stand tall and confident in through life’s biggest milestones, according to White.

Stationed at 299 Belle Terre Blvd., Suite C since 1985, Formal Connection has seen generations of St. John the Baptist Parish residents and visitors through first communions, high school dances, graduations, weddings and funerals.

Customers can find the perfect tuxedo fit in classic, modern and slim styles, along with dress pants, shirts, bowties, suspenders and other accessories.

Manager Baba Oncale, a 28-year employee, said customers find comfort in familiar faces.

From left, Baba Oncale, Ronnie White and John Malik form a dynamic team at Formal Connection.

“We honestly and truly make sure that everybody who comes in is treated like family,” Oncale said. “We’ll go as far as we can to try to help them out.”

When a recent customer requested a camouflage jacket to lay her loved one to rest in, Oncale said staff went above and beyond to ship the item in from Arkansas in time for the services.

In addition to maintaining a small-town atmosphere, Formal Connection boasts prices significantly lower than what one could expect to find in Metairie, according to salesperson John Malik.

White said Formal Connection fulfills a need in St. John the Baptist Parish that has persisted for decades. When he first moved to LaPlace in the 1980s, he saw limited opportunities for renting formal wear.

The business started in a 1,000-square feet space and expanded to 2,400 square feet. A 2013 store facelift added new LED lighting, woodwork, carpet and furniture.

Formal Connection is located at 299 Belle Terre Blvd., Suite C in LaPlace.

Through it all, White keeps a focus on reasonable prices without gimmicks.

“We don’t want a customer to walk to Baton Rouge or Metairie when we have it here,” White said. “We want to keep them in LaPlace and have them shop local.”

Sizes range from 2T to size 66 in certain collections, White said, and prices typically range from $55 to $100 for weekend rentals.

In wedding parties of six or more, the groom’s tuxedo is free.

White said Formal Connection has built ties with numerous repeat customers who receive discounts for their continued business. While the people have stayed the same and brought forth new generations of customers, White said formal wear style has changed vastly.

Store manager Baba Oncale, a 28-year employee, says unmatched customer service has allowed Formal Connection to find a home in the community.

“I see the business going more towards suits, and that’s a big factor in making decisions about the inventory,” White said.

For prom outfits, White said there is a trend toward colorful tuxedos, paisley patterns and sparkle shoes.

The Formal Connection team has forged a name within the community, lending tuxedos for Sugar Queen pageant fashion shows, Krewe du Monde Mardi Gras balls and yearbook photo shoots in St. John Parish and beyond.

White also donates retired inventory items to St. John Theatre for use in summer productions.

Formal Connection is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. After New Year’s Day, Saturday hours change to 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Call 985-652-1195, visit formalconnectionlaplace.com or like Formal Connection on Facebook for more information on store inventory.