Wedding bells aren’t the only thing most people are hearing when they walk into their appointment at Amy's Bridal Boutique. They may also hear a bell being rung from the back of the bridal shop where brides are finding their perfect dress in the showroom. Every time a bride finds her dress, they ring the bell. The bell in Amy’s hasn’t been ringing since the shutdown was first announced. And many are left wondering what the wedding industry is going to look like when this is all over (whatever that means). I have been in a few bridal shops in my lifetime, but I had never had the joy of visiting Amy’s! The circumstances weren’t what I’d have chosen for my first visit, and as I entered, it wasn’t as bright as I knew it could feel; the glowing light reflected off of rows and rows of dresses and lace was not as elegantly cheerful as I knew it would be on a normal day of bridal visits.
But the one thing that was just as bright as it usually is, was the owner herself.
Although Amy and her work partner Elaina are fun, lighthearted, and charming through our visit, there’s definitely a weight none of us conceal. The heaviness of the visit’s purpose did not even begin to hide how smart, fun, and brilliant these two ladies are. I have a feeling we will be hanging out in the future when the social distancing “law” is lifted. And, I am anxious for their business to return to Amy’s shop, one way or another.
In between our laughs over life and how crazy and ironic it can be, I got to ask the two of them a few things about the shop and this whole shutdown affecting their lives and the wedding scene.
A misconception I had over someone in the wedding gown business, was that they had, probably, wanted to be in the ‘gown life’ for a while, and it was their dream. Now Amy thinks the story of how her shop started isn’t that interesting. I, however, thought it was one of the better ones I’ve heard during this project.
“I wish our story was more exciting. I really wanted to have a wedding venue.”
Realizing that was not doable, her ideas about the wedding industry stopped there… until, one day, a friend of hers brought it up with the comment that, “The Tri-Cities needs a bridal shop.”
“I was like, hmmm, that’s not for me, ha-ha. But another one of our friends, who’s a real estate agent, was also sitting and chatting with us, said, ‘I know the perfect spot.’“
And they got in the car and drove out to their old location.
“We’re like, just fooling around, when the landlord pulled into the parking lot and asked, ‘Oh, what are you guys doing?’ And, uh, we didn’t know.”
So, her real estate friend and the landlord started talking, and her friend ended up making the landlord a low-ball offer. When they got back into the car, Amy, trying to figure out what was going on, asked what was happening.
“We’re going to go do an LOI”, he said.
LOI? And he said, ‘A LETTER OF INTENT.’
“Intent to do what?”
“Lease the space!”
“And I was like, WOAH, this outing over at PF Changs really took a sharp turn.”
“So, I went home and I talked to my husband, and he actually thought it was a really good idea. He told me he thought Tri-Cities needed a bridal shop. I had just had twins and I had to get out of my house; I had twins and an 18-month-old. So, I was like, okay, yeah, that sounds like a project. And I opened a bridal shop. Before I knew it, it was a thing. We developed a good reputation, people liked us, and they kept coming, so… ha-ha."
“People are like, isn’t this your dream come true, and I’m like… no, it really just happened. If you would have asked me the day before that cocktail with my friend, where do you see your life ten years from now, it would have never occurred to me to be, oh, I’ll have a bridal shop.”
We laugh about a lot throughout our visit.
And though I have only known Amy for all of an hour, I’m positive she’s perfect for this business that found her.
*Is there something about the community that worries you the most during the shutdown?
“Um, I think I just have this fear of events not being a thing. And as someone in the event industry, obviously I worry about that. There are so many creative and passionate people who are part of the wedding and event industry, whether they’re decorators or designers or musicians. All of their gigs are canceled. And there’s a part of me…my heart breaks over the thought of never going to a wedding again, or a festival again, or an art show, just…”
Having it never be the same?
“Yeah! Or like a fundraiser even. Not having those huge gatherings anymore. My extraverted side really misses social stuff; even just going to the wineries and restaurants. I keep going back to music because I’m a music lover, but the thought of never going to a concert again breaks my heart.”
“And we’re supposed to reopen May 4th, but will we really?”
Apart from business concerns, she has a down-to-business, good head on her shoulders approach to life outside the shop as well. Amy touched a bit on what she was afraid of, and I think, when it comes down to it, a lot of us can relate.
“You have a lot of people who depend on you and you do not want to fail them; your staff your family and your customers.”
At the time, they had 117 unfulfilled orders.
“So, making sure that I fulfill all my orders, making sure my staff gets paid, making sure all my kids get educated, basically making sure all the people that need something from me get everything they need from me.”
If that doesn’t help explain Amy to you as a person, than you’ll just have to go in and meet her and Elaina for yourself.
I’m hoping the shop opens soon for fittings and visits. And for that bell to start ringing again.
The scary thing is that not wanting to fail others is hard enough when it’s all on you. The situation with the wedding gowns is not so black and white, and I feel stressed even thinking about how failing someone isn’t entirely in Amy’s hands.
“People have already given me the money for their orders, so I still have to deliver the dress even if I’m closed or if my designers closed, or if China shuts down. I have a literal contract that says you gave me money, I’m going to give you a dress. So, just the stress of not knowing if our supply chain goes down, on any level, are the designers going to shut down are the factories going to shut down? Luckily, all of our designers are still delivering, though some of them have shut down, but, we’re like, you gotta get me that dress out because her wedding’s in May and she’s not moving it. As far as we know, deliveries are still coming; it’s just that stress of what if they call and say we're not.”
“So, I think that’s just been stressful, making sure I don’t… I don’t want to disappoint anyone ever, be it a bride, our staff, or my family. I don’t want to be that mom that fails at everything. I keep thinking it could be worse, we could have head lice.”
We had a lot of moments when our laughs brightened the mood and revealed even more of her strength throughout this weird process; a wave that’s sweeping her store along with it, and she just has to watch and try to work with it.
“And that’s another thing that stinks. I wish I could sell dresses right now; you know what I mean. I am hungry; I need some income and I have to tell people no, I can’t take your money right now. And as much as I want to sell you a dress right now, I can’t.”
*So, if a bride has bought a dress or had a fitting with you previously, could they order a dress now, since you have their sizes?
“Yeah. If they know what dress they want and everything, absolutely. We have brides that have tried on gowns and decided to wait, or continue shopping, or didn’t have money. So, we have brides calling and asking to order their dress.“
So far, only three gowns have been sold through that process.
*Do you find yourself possibly needing expansion?
“Yeah, but then, something like this happens and I think, thank goodness we didn’t. The space next door opened and I struggled with whether to take it. It was more per sq. foot than my side. It is almost the same price for like half of this space. So, we didn’t and I was really regretting it. But now, I’m like thank God, thank goodness!”
An issue I bring up, relating to a lot of the 25 businesses I’ve visited, is they share having just went through extensive remodeling, relocating, building, or are in their infancy.
“It is so scary to think about it. I can’t even imagine.”
And it’s hard, because you know often, they are putting their…
“Everything, everything they have into it. Everything on the line when you start. It is an all-in type of thing. And, sometimes, it is even more than all in. Sometimes, they’ve taken out a loan already and it is all in, PLUS.”
We are inwardly cringing for what our community will resemble when we emerge from this situation, and our conversation drifts to who else we are extremely concerned for. Amy speaks with concern about people that are now stuck in home situations that are not safe or healthy during quarantine; putting people that could usually leave their home, in certain situations, at risk. I see even more of her heart as we discuss addicts, alcoholics, people on the street, people in abusive situations. My mind is silently breaking for all the people out there who have been not just falling through the cracks before this, but are now thrown into them.
Amy is a genuine pillar of this town, and her caring nature and strong character is only going to help our community continue to rise. She is not only helping people walk down the aisle, but I know she’s helping everyone take steps forward, aisle or not.
The most impactful moment she can remember, while running her shop, is the day she got Elaina.
“She cared about my business, she was smart, and she wanted a career. I could tell she was going to stick around.”
Amy, Elaina, you have gotten this far, and after meeting you both I have no doubt about where you’ll be when this is over. I know you’re not going Gown without a fight. (Sorry, had to.) I probably won’t be in for a gown fitting anytime soon, but I will see you ladies around. Maybe we can meet up at PF Changs and try to find my next business. I have no doubt your adaptive drive and strength are paving new plans as I write this. 336 People Reached
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