You know that phrase, "the days are long but the years are short?" Well, that's true. At least from where I sit. One minute, you're finishing high school and the next, you're hugging a bride-to-be who has been the whatever-thousandth to say "yes to the dress" in your successful bridal boutique.
I'm not being glib. Two hundred.... or two hundred thousand ... every single bride or prom-going-girl who's bought a gown from me has changed me. Each one has helped me grow Bridal Traditions. I've been at this business for 20 years this April. That is 20 orbits around the sun. My little business is old enough to vote, to buy a house, to buy her first car and old enough to get married. Where, I ask you, did the time go?
My editor has informed me that the caption for the above photo is a gross exaggeration of the truth .... but I'm ignoring her....
When I was just a little older than this picture, I rented a space to open a bridal shop. I told my mom and dad that I wanted to own my own business and I knew that I could learn as went along and that being my own boss was my ultimate goal. It's hard to know this when you're in it, but the person you become isn't always "on the horizon" to be discovered only after years of living. Sometimes you know much sooner. I know I did.
As a little girl, I was all about playing with Barbies. THAT is definitely the little girl in the image above. I loved my Barbie dolls and those I played with were never serving banged up cookies at the PTA in slacks, or standing in line at the grocery store after a long day at the office. My Barbies were princesses. If there was a gown, she was wearing it. I loved the glamour of it all. That style, that expression of beauty just transfixed me.
Flash forward to winter of 1999/2000 when I sold my first prom gown while working out of my dad's house. It was meant to be. And the woman, nay - the GIRL - that I sold that black velvet dress to ended up being my sister-in-law. It's still one of her favorite gowns. By April of 2000, I'd rented the space that started Bridal Traditions and my brain child was born.
Below: another of my very first prom customers (white dress), and then a few more years down the road (orange dress). Those were the early days, when satin and beading were everywhere. Things change and yet they stay the same, huh?
I thank God for my very first Sales Reps. They taught me so much. I learned to trust my instincts and that if I liked the gown, I would be able to sell it.
That is still true. If I think a product is poorly made, or I don't see its intrinsic value, there is no way that I can convince another smart woman that she wants it. In those first years, I learned about styles, cuts, seasons, trends, when to buy and what to buy. Everything I learned, I applied. I was hungry to know everything about the business, so I made sure that if I made a mistake, I didn't make it twice, and I made my fair share..
To this day, my inventory is made up of gowns that I love, even if they aren't my personal style. Quality and workmanship matter, so while I might not prefer the style of a gown myself, I understand why it's marvelous and why it will be fabulous on the right person. My customers trust my judgment and they also know that I want them to be happy. That matters more than anything.
Growth & Expansion
My timeline is one of planned growth and serendipity, to tell you the truth. I thank my lucky stars, my friends, my family and God for the way things happened to get me to this point.
I personally helped with the expansion and alteration of the prom space, along side my dad, my husband, some of our friends and with loads of support. We had a grand opening party that I will never forget. In many ways, it feels like yesterday.
BeYOUtiful Prom Grand Opening
Community - Love & Giving Back
I love this job. I love the giddy moment of watching a girl hear the "audible click" in her head of "YES! I belong in this dress." But I love the challenges too and I certainly love the community that has supported me for 20 years. To that end, in 2007, I started The Wilkes Wedding Expo. It was an event that many of us in the area and in the industry thought was a good idea, and I took it on. Every year, from 2007 to 2020, Bridal Traditions has hosted this event. In those 13 years, we've helped fellow vendors grow their business and thousands of brides-to-be get ready for their wedding day.
& We've been in the Press
I'm proud of the work we've done over the last 20 years and certainly that is its own reward. But it is nice to be a part of a community that recognizes the contributions of its citizens. Even when I thought, "who, me?" I was deeply gratified and honored to support causes, to win accolades and to contribute wherever I could.
Raising money for St. Jude Children's Hospital via our Annual Benefit Ball has been one of my greatest honors.
At one point, I thought, "15 years will be enough." Then I thought, "20.... when I get to 20, I'll hang up my tiara, turn the sign to closed and call it good." But at the end of last year, even before that, I realized that I still wake up every day loving what I do. Of course, Covid-19 has impacted us, but I still feel this way. We will open up again and be ready to stroll the store with clients looking for the perfect gown or tux. Our vendors are still creating designs and delivering on time, weddings are being planned and dresses are being paid for and picked up. We're still here.
For me, after 20 years in business, it's still about this....
and it's about this...
On Bridal Traditions' 20th Anniversary, it's 20th Birthday if you will, I want to say thank you with more humility and gratitude than you can imagine. You've supported me and I plan to be around to support you all as long I'm able, and as long as this business is still viable and fun. You've made this local girl extremely happy, and there aren't enough words.
Part 2 of this celebratory blog will be out soon, so stay tuned, because I plan to tell a lot of juicy stories about people I've met along the way.
But I can promise that Part 2 will be from the heart. In the meantime, stay safe, wash your hands and know how loved you all are by me and the gang at BT. Cheers!