Melissa Ann Photography bio picture
  • Hello!

    I believe that photos tell a story and hold on to special meaning that would otherwise be forgotten. Honestly, who knows where I'd be without my camera seeing as how I have a terrible memory anyway!

    This blog will house not only sneak peeks from my sessions, but I will also post personal things. I think it's important to share some personal moments so that my current clients can get to know me better, and my future clients will feel like they already know me.

    Thank you so much for stopping by and be sure to spread the word!


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    Get Healthy – Local Business Feature | DeRidder, LA

    Downtown DeRidder is beginning to blossom with little gems around each corner. I recently visited the historical square to photograph a local shop and shortly after was given the opportunity to visit another! Get Healthy is located on the main road that cuts through downtown DeRidder. It is a health food shop, coffee shop, and wellness center packed into one! The coffee shop, Java Joe’s has become a new favorite for us. Drew and I head there when the twins are in their Mother’s Day Out class to get school work done in a new environment. The atmosphere is quiet and cozy and we enjoy our tasty treats from the counter.

    Terri Stovall is the owner of these wonderful businesses and I’ll let her fill you in on all the details:)

    Tell me about how Get Healthy came to be.

    My parents and my husband’s parents all passed away within a 5 year period. Our fathers were only 59, and our mothers were 62. My husband was in Iraq when our mothers passed away, and I was at home with a lot of time on my hands and started contemplating how to reverse our genetic disposition toward cancer and heart disease so that I could help our children and grandchildren to live longer, healthier lives.  I ended up going back to school and obtained my Doctorate in Naturopathy about the same time my youngest daughter, Candi Johnson, graduated from college.

    We had planned to build Get Healthy near our home on the route to Fort Polk, but I really wanted it to be a family business and was afraid that Candi would go to work for the state and I would not have the opportunity to work closely with her, so we decided to open in DeRidder, since there was no health food store there. Six weeks later we were open in Country Square shopping center. Business was great for us from day one, and 2 1/2 years later we purchased a building in the historic district of downtown DeRidder, then a year later, we purchased the second building to expand into the wellness center, and our business has doubled.

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    Your shop is actually split into three separate business that compliment each other, tell us what services you offer.

    Our main business is Get Healthy, and Java Joe’s and The Wellness Center and Spa operate under that umbrella.

    Get Healthy offers natural groceries, frozen foods, an organic produce box program, works with a local CSA, grass fed beef and specialty groceries such as Gluten Free, Dairy Free and whole grains.  We also offer bulk foods, loose herbs, medicinal teas, and dietary supplements. We try to keep up with the latest research on vitamins, minerals and herbs. We offer smoothies and protein drinks, made to order, as well as Italian Sodas and specialty teas.

    Java Joe’s offers fresh brewed coffee and espresso drinks such as lattes, cappuccinos and frappes. We use locally roasted Community espresso beans that are ground fresh daily. We also offer Java Joe’s own gourmet and organic coffee beans, and coffee flavorings. Popular flavors include Chocolate Raspberry, Crème Beignet, Southern Pecan, Organic Java Estate and King Cake.

    The Wellness Center & Spa offers Massage Therapy, Facials, Oxygen Therapy and Naturopathic Services, as well as a host of equipment that can be used by the session or included in our membership programs. Some of the more popular services are the red light collagen bed, far-infrared sauna, ionic foot detox, hydromassage bed, vibrational platform and teeth whitening. We offer therapeutic services for anti-aging, migraine headaches, stress and pain management. We offer aromatherapy, Jane Iredale Mineral Cosmetics, home teeth-whitening services as well as body wraps and scrubs. Seasonal packages and “girls day out” packages available as well as couples massage.

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    What has been the most difficult part of running/creating your business?

    There have not really been any difficult parts in running the business or creating it, as it all comes from the heart. I guess the most difficult part would be seeing the customers who come in as a last resort, who have lost hope in the the allopathic medical field, or who have been told there is no hope for them. They are scared and hurt and feel they have nowhere left to turn. It breaks my heart and we do what we can to help, sometimes their life expectancy is increased, sometimes just their quality of life. For me, personally, I don’t get to spend as much time with the customers as I used to, the business end of the business is very time consuming, and I miss the day-to-day interactions.

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    How many people work with you and what are their responsibilities?

    There are currently 13 people working in the three businesses that we encompass. (Java Joe’s Coffee House, The Wellness Center & Spa at Get Healthy, and Get Healthy). Duties vary, but we try to have someone educated in supplements and a trained barista on staff at all times.  We offer continuing education programs and have monthly contests, meetings and incentives for each of the employees and the products that we offer. We have 3 baristas who trained in New Orleans, 8 employees have completed training with various supplement brands, two are trained in Jane Iredale Skin Care Makeup, we have one licensed Cosmetologist and two licensed Massage Therapists and one Board Certified Naturopath. Two employees are either Active Duty military or family members, and  we have one IT person and one maintenance person. Most are educated in several areas.

    DeRidder-Get Healthy-Organic-Wellness-PhotoWhat has been the most surprising thing since starting your business?

    The most surprising thing has been how the community accepted us with open arms, to know that we filled a need. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t thank us for being here.  It is also surprising to see how many people have dietary restrictions, whether it is food allergies or intolerances or Celiac, or Diabetes. My granddaughter has serious food allergies to peanuts and sesame and it is very difficult to find food at the regular grocery stores that is not processed in the same facility as peanuts or even on the same equipment as peanuts.  The sensitivities can vary from life threatening to digestive discomfort and skin issues such as eczema or psoriasis. It encompasses a much larger segment of the community than most people realize. 

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    Get Healthy offers a variety of organic products, some that are difficult to find. What are some special items that patrons may be surprised you carry?

    People are usually pleasantly surprised at the extent of our Gluten Free/Nut Free/Dairy Free sections. We have been told that our selection is the largest within a 2 hour drive. We have regular customers from Many, Oakdale, Lake Charles, Sulphur, Westlake, Dequincy and even Jasper, TX. The largest segment of our customers come from Fort Polk and they are happy to find a place that is happy to order their favorite foods from home.

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    You mentioned going back to school. Tell me about the degrees you went back to pursue.

    My doctorate is in Naturopathy, and I am considered a Traditional Naturopath. I am board certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and hold certifications in Ayurveda, Iridology, Clinical Aromatherapy, Face/Nail/Tongue Analysis, and Wholistic Health Assessment, and I am a Certified Natural Health Professional (CNHP).

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    Tell me more about what the spa and wellness center offers?

    Our massage therapists offer deep tissue, medical massage, relaxation and Swedish massage as well as hot stone, aromatherapy massage and healing energy work such as Polarity Therapy and Reiki.

    Our Cosmetologist uses Derma-E’s award winning natural skin care products based on each client’s skin care needs. She utilizes steam as well as hot and cold stones in her treatments. Visible results are often seen after just one session.

    In my office, Naturopathic services include Iridology, Face/tongue/nail analysis, Five element healing, Clinical Aromatherapy, dry blood cell analysis, saliva and blood spot testing as well as kinesiology and traditional labwork. I am a regional board member of the Louisiana Health Freedom Coalition and help to protect our rights to natural health products in the state.

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    If you weren’t running your own business, what might we find you doing?

    If I was not running my own business I would hope to be homeschooling my grandchildren and traveling to see the world.

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    What else would you like to share with our readers?

     We are so proud to be here and to be a part of this community and are more than willing to educate ourselves in any natural health related topic that they may feel they need help understanding. We are happy to order anything that anyone would like to have available and it can always be here in a few days.  We pride ourselves in our knowledge of natural health related topics and in our continuing education program. We are here to help and we love what we are doing.

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    Terri, thank you so much for giving me an inside peek and for allowing me to share it with everyone else. I am so glad not only to have your business here in town, but also to know more about the reasons it’s been created. For those of you that would like to pay them a visit, they are open Monday through Friday from 7am – 5:30pm and Saturday from 10am – 3pm and are located at 107 S. Washington Street in downtown DeRidder. If you see me there with Drew doing school work, be sure to say hi!:)

    ~Melissa

     

    Vintage Girl – DeRidder | Local Business Feature

    Drive into downtown DeRidder and you’re greeted with small town shops and a few small restaurants. It’s easy to drive along on your way out of town and miss all there is to offer. However, as I drove down the road one day I saw a lovely store sitting across from Cecil’s and beside the now Mama Nena’s Bakery. I noticed it because it stood out, it was different than the other shops around the area. The door was framed with beautiful vintage pieces and I quickly glanced  in the windows as I was forced to drive past promising myself to stop in soon.

    I contacted Claudia, one of the owners, to ask if I could come in and photograph her store. I was inspired by the plethora of goodies that surrounded me. Beautiful pieces are literally everywhere when you walk in and they left me feeling awed. Seriously, why didn’t I think to do that to an old window? Or, perhaps I should begin collecting old doors. The store is stunning.

    I’m thankful that Claudia welcomed me into Vintage Girl and gave me a bit of her time to answer my questions. I’m sharing this with all of you, because you must see the place and pay her a visit! Claudia is one of the sweetest people I’ve met here and she will help you find the perfect cottage chic pieces to add to your home or the perfect accents to add to your wedding day. Vintage Girl not only provides items for sale, they also provide a rental option.  Read on to find out more about the Vintage Girl shop and it’s owners.

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    How long have you been in business? How many people make up your company?

    Vintage Girl is made of 4….3 lifelong friends, Beth, Nanette, and Claudia and Claudia’s mom, Mary. We have been selling to the lover of vintage for close to 20 years. When we began, we were either raising our young children or working full time, so we sold from co-ops and weekend shows.

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    Is this what you’ve always wanted to do? If not, what was your original plan?

    Up until January of 2013, we only dreamed and talked about the “day we might have our own shop”. February of 2013, God blessed us with the opportunity to see our dream become a reality in the old Irvine’s drugstore downtown DeRidder. With the opening of our own shop, Vintage Girl, we have also been able to offer vintage rentals for weddings and events as well as sell antiques and vintage items.

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    What do you like best about your job?

    I personally (Claudia) enjoy every aspect of running and owning our own shop….decorating and re-decorating; seeing what customers enjoy most about the shop and what they are searching for; and being a part of other’s special event or day with our rentals….all very rewarding.

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    If you weren’t a co-owner of Vintage Girl, what would you be doing?

    With 4 co-owners, the answer would vary I am sure….Beth sold a well-loved café before we opened up, Claudia took time off from teaching school, Mary is a retired office administrator, and Nanette continues to work full time for Representative James Armes.

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    What sets your shop apart from the others in town?

    Our sister shops in antiques have been very welcoming and encouraging to us. I think what makes us “specialized” would be our vintage wedding or event rentals. We have rented wedding items like peely-paint columns, old doors, arches, signs, and chandeliers for weddings in Lafayette, Alexandria, Lake Charles, Toledo Bend, Leesville, Many, and at many of our local venues as well. It is a blessing to meet these new friends and be a part of their special day!

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    Do you have any strange or funny stories in your years of experience?

    In the antique business, you don’t always know all the stories and history connected to your items you find, clean up, and learn to love before they go on to their new home and many times you don’t know where they even end up or what purpose or re-purpose they play in someone’s home. But a few times we have sold with other dealers to movie sets like the Brad Pitt movie in New Orleans and another time Hillary Swank shopped at a show we were selling from when she was making a movie nearby.

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    What services do you offer?

    Vintage Girl sells to the lover of “cottage chic”…. peely, chippy painted architecture, soft, well-loved paints and colors….garden flavored and cottage styled. We are pleased to also offer vintage rentals for weddings and events.

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    What has been the scariest/most difficult thing for you as a small business owner?

    With 4 of us, I am sure we have and had different fears about our venture and commitment to running our own business but I would think we all had the anxiety of being able to be successful enough to stay in business.

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    On a personal note: guilty pleasures?

    Guilty pleasures, hmmmmm……probably eating out would describe a weakness in all 4 of us!

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    Overall, Claudia and the other fabulous ladies of Vintage Girl wish to share their Mission, which states:

    We believe God loves you and your home. He as our Creator gives us a creative spirit and a nest to make our own. Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity and making us each so special that you sent your beloved son, Jesus, to die and live for each of us.

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    I’m so thankful that Vintage Girl caught my eye while driving and that I had the chance to chat with one of the four owners. Each of the ladies has their own special touch that makes the whole business run beautifully. Be sure to check out their Facebook page to keep up with the latest goodies they have in the store or better yet, swing by and peruse everything in person. They are open every Thursday and Friday from 10-5 and Saturdays from 10-4.

    Happy shopping!

    ~Melissa

    Paul + Courtney | Wedding

    Planning a wedding is no simple task or any large event for that matter. It’s even more challenging when you live many states away! Paul and Courtney did just that all the way from Philadelphia, PA. They decided to marry at her father’s home in DeRidder; a lovely place settled on a beautiful piece of land. With the location decided upon, they depended on many of the details to be organized by Ashlee of Magnolia Life Events and it all came together fabulously. I met Paul and Courtney in person the Monday before their wedding. Instantly I felt completely comfortable with not only them, but the many family members and friends that were already present. We spent a bit of time discussing the schedule for their wedding day and also some of the special touches that they were adding to make the day more meaningful. Special things stood out throughout the whole wedding from the wine ceremony in place of the traditional unity candle or sand mixing to the memory table that held photographs of loved ones that will always be cherished, but sadly could not be present. The personalized touches continued with the wine bottles containing images of the bride and groom, their travels, and their friends that could be viewed during the cocktail hour beside the pool. Another fun aspect was the mason jars with chalkboard labels upon which guests could write their names and hold on to for the evening. One of the neatest things, however, was that the ceremony was officiated by Courtney’s mother. The big day was full of all the fabulous rituals of getting ready and sharing these moments with incredible friends and faithful family. Here is a small peek into Paul and Courtney’s wedding day.DeRidder-Outdoor-Wedding-Photo

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    The incredible flowers were arranged compliments of America’s Finest Flowers.

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    DeRidder-Outdoor-Wedding-PhotoDeRidder-Outdoor-Wedding-PhotoDeRidder-Outdoor-Wedding-PhotoDeRidder-Outdoor-Wedding-PhotoDeRidder-Outdoor-Wedding-PhotoDeRidder-Outdoor-Wedding-PhotoDeRidder-Outdoor-Wedding-PhotoDeRidder-Outdoor-Wedding-PhotoDeRidder-Outdoor-Wedding-PhotoDeRidder-Outdoor-Wedding-PhotoDeRidder-Outdoor-Wedding-PhotoI’m so very honored to have been a part of your day and the start of your lives together. I wish y’all all the happiness complete with tons of laughter. Hugs, ~Melissa

    7 Tips for Photo Sessions with Kids

    So, you’ve booked your first…or fifteenth family session. You have exactly 1 child under the age of 5, or you have 3 under the age of 5! Whatever your numbers and ages, the point is you’ve booked a photo session with high hopes of those magazine style images…

    Yep, let that sink in for a moment…did you just consider canceling your session? Well, now settle down, that’s just about as extreme as expecting those posh magazine images where everything is, well, staged. You know, like the pottery barn images where the playroom is larger than half of your house and the kids are not only fully dressed, but they also match and have their hair fixed. Just today one of my twins was running around in the backyard in undies and his collared shirt on backwards. Try as I might to convince him that it was  backwards and that he should consider pants, I was told that his shirt was not backwards and basically that pants are just not necessary (in his own words, of course). I digress, the point is the magazines are not reality, the kids may completely surprise you during your session with angelic behavior and perfect pose-able moments, hey, they may even wear pants, but it’s best to plan your session around the littles.

    It sounds a bit taxing and you may say, well, what does that involve, really?  Here’s the deal, I believe it’s similar to taking the kiddos out to eat at a nice restaurant. You do it sporadically, and you plan ahead. Below are some tips on making your session with young kiddos run smoothly:)

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    No matter how much planning you put into your session, expect the unexpected. Things are bound to go differently than anticipated. Embrace the crazy, embrace this special time of life with your children, and take a moment to step back and smile, savor the moments, play with them in that open field, let them feel how much you love them. After all, these little beings are only little for so long. They have a way of stealing our hearts every single day, let that shine through your family portraits! Let the crazy, most amazing moments live on!

    ~Melissa

    The Tinker Family

    This sweet family of four has increased by one since the last time I photographed them. Jacob certainly joined a family that is full of love and fun. He will no doubt have an endless supply of squeezers from his ever so awesome older brother and sister. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to photograph these guys again. I’ve said it before, there’s something so incredible about watching people you went to school with begin and continue to grow their families. I love that we can still be a part of their world:)

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    Enjoy, friends!

    With love,

    ~Melissa

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