A local family has been involved in one of life's most important moments for 50 years.
Nanci Rossi and her husband, Walter Dunlap, now deceased, opened their first specialty shop — which carried bridal wear — in May 1964 in Oberlin.
Dunlap, however, wanted to make the move exclusively into bridal. So in 1965, the couple opened their first shop in Sandusky, The Brides World. Their first showroom was at the William Frankel store on Market Street. It was all Dunlap's idea to open the bridal shop.
“I said, 'I hate bridal,'" Rossi said. "Fifty years later, I'm still in bridal. I love it."
The store has scheduled celebrations throughout June, with occasional drawings for prizes.
“We would like former employees and former brides to come in and see us,” Rossi said.
Their secret to remaining open all these decades?
“It's all about service,” Rossi said.
They also operated downtown next to the State Theater before moving in 1977 to their current store on West Perkins Avenue.
Continuing the family legacy is Rossi's daughter, DeAnn McKillips, who runs the tuxedo division called The Tux World.
“Back in the day when we first started, everyone shopped in Sandusky,” Rossi said.
These days, many people feel the need to drive to Toledo or Strongsville for shopping. She laughs, because people in Toledo and Strongsville will drive to her store.
The biggest change in the wedding industry came with the Internet. Women would come into the shop to try on dresses, taking up an employee's time. Then they'd leave, only to purchase the dress online, thinking they'd find a better deal.
“One woman came in with a dress and a bag of beads," Rossi said. "They did not bead the dress."
Ladies who visit The Brides World are treated to top-notch service — they get help choosing the right dress for the day, particularly one that flatters them and makes them feel beautiful. The staff also offers alterations and pressings.
It requires a tremendous amount of patience to help prepare the perfect dress.
Rossi showed me how she irons a wedding dress. She can iron an entire gown to perfection in three to four hours.
With the iron turned off, I tried my hand at it. (It was off because I didn't want to ruin someone's wedding dress.) After tackling just one layer of the skirt, my arm was tired.
“You must have amazing arms,” I said, as I felt her arm.
Yes, they were impressive.
Wendy Lehman does everything in the shop, including alterations.
“You deconstruct. You construct. It's just logic,” Lehman said.
She said this like it was nothing to turn a complex and delicate wedding dress into the perfect creation.
I can't even sew a hem back onto a jacket or pair of pants.
And this business isn't for a novice. The average wedding costs nearly $30,000, while the average gown sold at The Brides World is $850.
Most brides come in 12 to 18 months before their wedding, said Kim Witmer, the store's sales associate and alterations specialist.
That's good, because it can take six months to get a dress in from a manufacturer.
“But if a girl came in on Wednesday and was getting (married) on Saturday, we would find something for her,” Witmer said.
After all, it's all about service, and making the bride beautiful on her special day.
Need help planning that perfect wedding?
What: Brides By the Bay Bridal Show at Lyman Harbor, presented by The Brides World, the Tuxedo World and Lyman Harbor
When: Jan. 25, 2015
More: 20 vendors and about 400 brides make this a premiere area bridal show.
The Brides World
Where: 912 W. Perkins Ave., Perkins Township