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New York Bride

In North Syracuse, there’s a small bridal shop called New York Bride.  It’s a brick building with lovely arched windows and ample parking in the back.   I thought, “It’s quaint.”  However, I was truly impressed the minute I entered the shop.  In side the main entrance, you immediately see a majestic display with the featured gown.  While it changes frequently, this gown looked like it just came off Audrey Hepburn.  An elegant gown with three quarter length sleeves, news chiffon skirt and a lace beaded top with a gentle scoop neckline. I walked through the store and was amazed at the large collection of bridal and attendant dresses.

After taking care of some urgent business, owner Valerie Walczak greeted me with a big smile.  While NY Bride has been in business for 20 years, Valerie has owned it for only two and a half years.  When I asked how she came to buy the business, she told me that she used be one of the Saturday staff.  “I had a full-time job, but wanted to get out of the house during the winter. So, when the opportunity to buy the business came up, I just closed my eyes and jumped.”  Her leap of faith paid off big time!  Because many people sport become engaged over the Christmas holiday, the bridal business kicks into high gear right after New Year’s.

Valerie considers herself very lucky, “The shop was already well-established, and it had a good reputation so I wasn’t going to change anything right away.  It was a relatively smooth transition, and I was fortunate that the entire staff decided to stay with me.”  There are 17 employees and what proves it’s a great place to work is exemplified by the multiple generations working there.  “We have a mother/daughter team and then we have a mother/daughter/granddaughter team.”  Valerie considers land her staff to be her family and the unity is very evident.

The décor is stunning and the only thing better is the vast and diverse collection of dresses.  When I asked what some of the new trends are, Valerie told me about the array of colors that brides are selecting, “Brides are taking more chances with color.  Ivory, blush and champagne are still the front runners, but gold and pink are gaining in popularity.  The other trend that’s coming is long sleeves, and illusion necklines and backs.”  The knowledge required to be good in this business is huge!  Everyone who works there needs reicpe to know the attributes of each designer they carry (and there are six), to body types, and keeping the bride on track.   The no pressure approach to selling a gown keeps the bride and her party relaxed.  “One thing we try to ask them is if they’re willing to try on something other than what they think they want. This increases their comfort zone, and who doesn’t like trying on these dresses.”  Valerie and her staff are dedicated to making the customer happy.  They optimize their search by reminding them of their original vision when they entered the store.

The comfort zone is increased because they can find a dress for anyone.  They are very proud of their plus size selection.  As a matter of fact, New York Bride caters to the plus size customer and has the biggest onsite selection.  Plus size dresses are prominently displayed to make any size customer happy with their purchase and experience.  “We take our time because if a bride buys a gown she doesn’t love just to expedite the process, then we haven’t done our job.  We don’t care how much they spend, we only want them to be confident and happy with the dress they purchase,” stated Valerie.

One of the biggest challenges for the bridal industry is those who wait until the last minute to buy their dress.  New York Bride staff recommend that you start looking for your dress when you get engaged.  Some dresses take six months to obtain from the manufacturer especially if it’s a custom order.  You should then allow 6-8 weeks for alterations.  This time is necessary because these dresses will probably be the most expensive piece of clothing you’ll ever buy.  Dresses range from $ 650 to $4,000, and the average price is $1,500.  Then, you add the cost of the accessories: veils, head pieces, jewelry and undergarments.  Unlike the big box stores, New York Bride does not carry shoes or purses.  They also do not carry mother-of-the-bride dresses.  “We focus strictly on the bride and her attendants.  This way, there’s less confusion and there are plenty of places who carry that kind of apparel,” said Valerie.  The personal attention given to the bride and her party is the primary focus of every employee.

I asked if they had come across any Bridezillas.  Valerie just smiled and said, “No. That’s just for TV.  Most brides are excited and have a lot of fun trying on all the different styles.”  However, some of the people who come with the bride can be difficult because they want to tell her what she “should” choose.  To help the bride make the decision, Valerie and the staff recommend they take pictures of all the dresses they try on.  This way, they can review them when then have time alone and it removes the pressure of other opinions.

This time of year is quiet so they prepare for the rush that occurs in January.  They organize the stock area because they also offer free storage until your wedding day.  It’s these personal services that keep the business going.  Most of their new customers are referrals from former customers.  “It’s a relationship we build carefully, and it lasts,” said Valerie.  Proof of their success is shown by the green wall – here they display the thank you cards and wedding pictures that happy customers send after the big day.

If you are a bride to be, then you need to visit New York Bride and get the personal attention that will make your wedding day perfect because you will have a dress that’s perfectly you!

Janet LaFrance