Personal Service for Special Occasions
by Dee Fisher
Shopping is largely a female pursuit. Anthropologists tell us that, for the most part, ancient males were hunters, roaming far and wide to bring food back to the family’s table, and females were the gatherers, staying close to the home, tending the young. Whether this led to a good percentage of modern females being preoccupied with shopping remains to be seen. However, most women will understand the bonding and memories that are formed on shopping trips.
The current trend of shopping online has been cutting into those once-upon-a-time trips. Nowadays, it’s possible to purchase nearly anything online, and millions of people take advantage of the convenience and power that gives them as they compare prices across web sites.
One result of this trend has been the closing of many retail stores, both big-box mega-stores and single-location small shops. But, according to Pam Brown, owner of Sisters Bridal Boutique in downtown Van Wert, Ohio, there’s more fallout than that.
“When I work with customers in my shop, it’s not just about selling dresses,” Pam says. “Most of the brides-to-be who come in here are younger, and they are getting married for the first time.
“I’m selling them the experience of trying on beautiful dresses that they wouldn’t normally wear. I’m selling the memories of spending time with your mother or your sister or aunt or friends, laughing and perhaps celebrating the find with a glass of wine (sparkling or not). You can’t do that on the internet!”
A number of years ago, Pam took her daughter out to look for a prom dress. Both women were surprised and shocked that the boutique they chose had virtually no customer service—they were on their own, looking at dresses, sizes, and styles. That’s when Pam said, “I can do better myself!” and decided to open her own shop.
The name “Sisters” came about because Pam wanted to have her daughters follow her in the business, which has not really happened, unfortunately. “This is something that I wanted to do, and, although they do help me out, my daughters are cut from a different cloth (pardon the pun),” Pam explains.
“Now I’ve heard a million other names I like better, but we decided to keep ‘Sisters Bridal Boutique’ as our brand.”
Although she had no retail experience before opening her own shop, Pam is adamant about what is needed to succeed in her chosen business. “You have to really like helping people,” she says. “Girls and older women come in here with vague ideas sometimes, and you have to learn to listen carefully to see exactly what it is they’re looking for. And, if it takes trying on several dresses before you find ‘the one,’ then you have to have the patience to continue looking with the customer.”
Out of about 7 billion people in the world, only about 100,000 of them are professional models. Yet, women tend to try to match themselves to those bodies.
“Body image is very individual,” Pam says. “I work at helping the customer find a dress that best brings out her body’s strengths and her own style and personality. When a customer looks in the mirror and likes what she sees, I’ve done my job.
“We carry sizes and styles for all tastes and body shapes. We have a lady that will help us take in, let out, lengthen, shorten, hem—do any alterations that are needed to make the dress into an individual expression of style,” Pam explains.
Although the name implies otherwise, Sisters Bridal Boutique offers more than just beautiful wedding dresses. Along with the bride’s dress, Sisters has bridesmaid dresses and tuxedo rentals for the grooms and groomsmen.
You can purchase jewelry, dyeable shoes, and headpieces for veils, as well. Sisters Bridal Boutique carries very lovely flower girl dresses, which may also be appropriate for a girl’s first communion.
“We also have ‘slimmers,'” Pam says. “We used to call them ‘girdles,’ but the current term is more descriptive!”
Although a wedding is definitely the bride’s day, it’s also a mission of Sisters Bridal Boutique to help mothers of the bride and groom look great. “Mom” dresses are available in many sizes and styles, and Pam will work with mothers in the same ways she works with their daughters.
To assist further, Pam gives each bride a packet of information on everything from wedding cakes to DJs that may be contracted for her reception. “I try to work with local businesses, helping promote them and their services to bridal parties,” Pam explains.
“Many of these businesses are also good for birthdays, anniversaries, and other events, so I keep their information available for the general public, also.”
And if the customer is not yet old enough to walk down the aisle, Pam also has prom and homecoming dresses. “Some of these girls don’t wear dresses on a regular basis, and they may not have an idea of what’s available.
“Or, they’ve looked at dresses online and found something they like and now need to see if it truly fits their body and style,” says Pam. “I try to help them make prom or homecoming a special time they’ll remember forever.”
You can find Sisters Bridal Boutique on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Pam posts pictures of some of the shop’s inventory, but she does not sell online. On the one hand, several of the designers whose lines she handles will not allow online sales, but on the other hand, Pam really prefers to work face-to-face with her clients to give them the personal service she and her daughter sought years ago.
“The best advertisement we can have is a satisfied customer, because they will tell all their friends and family about us,” Pam says. “And that is what we aim at—keeping our customers happy and satisfied.”