Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Marie Photography

Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Marie Photography

Welcome! I hope springtime is well underway for you, as well as bridal season! May is always a busy month here in Holland, Michigan with our annual Tulip Time Festival. The Festival includes 3 parades over 4 days, food stands, Dutch Dancing (my favorite!), concerts, tourists, and lots of tulips!

May is also a busy wedding month; we consider it the beginning of our “wedding season” which runs through October. Add holidays, graduations, and the need to begin taking care of our lawns and gardens again…well, you know exactly what I mean! I actually enjoy being busy and having plenty of productive things with which to fill my days.

It is my goal that this issue of our newsletter gives you plenty of ideas and encouragement! In the first article, I’m sharing a little self-discovery. There is also an article about a boutique owner I admire quite a bit, visual tips on displaying veils, and a detailed list of what should be in your boutique’s gown emergency kit.

Enjoy reading and be inspired!


wait - what happened here?

Have you ever had a call or appointment with a customer that suddenly took a turn? I have. Too many times. Thankfully with maturity and experience, I finally identified one thing I know I did wrong on many occasions. I’ve been guilty of shutting a customer down – without even meaning to – and then wondering why the interaction went south so quickly.

Customer: I just bought a gown from a local boutique and I want to have you clean it before I start alterations.

Me: Well, we suggest cleaning the gown after alterations.

Customer: Oh, well, I’ll call you.


Customer: I’d like to make an appointment for alterations. I just need a ½” off the bottom of my dress, so I’m sure it won’t take much time.

Me: Well, the seamstress has the same amount of work whether she takes off ½” or 6”.

Customer: Okay.

So, I’ve learned to listen and wait...I say, “let me think about that a moment.” This gives me time to frame my response in a kind, non-condescending way. I want them to know I value their opinion and their business.
— TP

Customer comes for appointment with chip on her shoulder and I wonder why.

These examples are over-simplified, but I’m sure you understand. I have been too quick to jump in and explain why something will not work or to elaborate on how it should be done that I have completely lost my customer’s respect. She no longer trusts me to serve her well.

So, I’ve learned to listen and wait. Now, when a customer asks me something that is contrary to our policy or the against what I know to be best, instead of jumping in with all the reasons their idea is bad, instead I say, "let me think about that a moment.” This gives me time to frame my response in a kind, non-condescending way. I want them to know I value their opinion and their business.

I do not want to respond negatively or passively to a customer because I do not think she knows as much as I do about wedding gowns or gown care. Going forward, I will use this in hopes of spreading kindness and having an opportunity to teach my customer something, rather than putting them on the defense!

Ellen’s Bridal & Dress Boutique

Checkout Area at Ellen’s Bridal & Dress Boutique in Wabash, Indiana

Checkout Area at Ellen’s Bridal & Dress Boutique in Wabash, Indiana

Wabash, Indiana has 10,000 residents and a small business community where “a rising tide lifts all ships,” according to Lisa Downs, owner of Ellen’s Bridal & Dress Boutique.  Lisa opened her store in 2012 as a consignment boutique for wedding gowns and formalwear. Over the next five years, she transitioned the store away from consignment and into a full-service bridal boutique. In 2018, the store moved to a new location in Wabash, focused on bridal and bridesmaid gowns and tuxedo rental.

            In 2016, The Wabash business community was selected winner of The Small Business Revolution, sponsored by Deluxe Corporation.  According to Lisa, the selection was the result of a nationwide vote; their community came together as a family, rallied votes and Wabash won. Their community is featured in Season 1 of the show, which includes an entire episode devoted to Ellen’s!  Over the next four to six months, the community members worked together to improve six area businesses as well as the downtown business district. Ellen’s was chosen to be one of the six business that received special attention, including a one-on-one business evaluation with Robert Herjavec, best known from Shark Tank on the ABC network.  

            Lisa’s involvement with her community includes supporting and educating new business owners and entrepreneurs with the goal that keeping each other encouraged and afloat will benefit the entire area. She enjoys working closely with other business owners so that an encounter on the street is more like meeting an old friend or family member than just exchanging pleasantries with an acquaintance.

            One of Lisa’s strongest characteristics as a leader and business owner is her dedication to continuing education. In fact, Lisa shares that she loves to take classes, webinars, and coaching so much that she will often take the same learning opportunity twice, because she knows she will learn something different each time. She is beginning to make continuing education a part of her budget so that she can invest only in opportunities that make sense financially. Not every learning situation has been a perfect fit, and as she gets busier and – no doubt - more profitable, she knows she needs to be more selective. However, she is careful to remind us that even a class that may not have been the most beneficial in content has never failed to give her a worthwhile idea or personal contact. More good advice from Lisa is to take one or two ideas from each class and apply those; this will help the learner not become completely overwhelmed!

            Lisa’s last piece of advice to fellow bridal boutique owners is to investigate the Better Bridal Group by visiting their website – linked here – to see if your territory is available. For Ellen’s Bridal & Dress Boutique, it has been one of the best investments possible!

Bridal Biz Tips & Ideas

This month, I asked some of our partner boutiques and members of The Gown Doctor Facebook group to share photos of their veil displays.

Emergency Gown Kit(2).png

Gown Emergencies!

Most homes and businesses have a first-aid kit in a handy place. I suggest that your bridal
boutique also needs a first-aid kit for your sample gowns. It’s worth your time to assemble it and keep it handy, preferably near a sink.

You and your consultants will be more likely to quickly replace a hook or treat a makeup stain
right away if everything you need is in one accessible place. Put your kit in a pretty container
and be sure all your consultants know where it is and how to use the tools inside.

Need an expert in your back pocket when stains and emergencies exceed your knowledge? That’s what we do at Great Lakes Wedding Gown Specialists! Join us as a Partner Boutique and we’re right there alongside you to help with closing sales, maintaining the value of sample gowns, and wholesale gown care to put more $$ in your bottom line!

I have been working with Tami of Great Lakes Wedding Gown Specialists for a little over a year and I am more than pleased with the quality and services provided. The care given to each gown is obvious in the careful package the Gown is returned in. Our brides appreciate the ability to have repairs done on their gowns.

Brides also love that they are given a special set of gloves to handle their gown. Explaining the gowns are preserved to museum quality is a great selling feature .
— Lisa Downs, Ellen's Bridal & Dress Boutique

If you would like more information about our services or becoming a Partner Boutique, please fill out this form and a member of our team will contact you shortly. Let us know if you prefer that we reach out via email, phone, or text!

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