It all started with a three-piece band in 1976 when Jim Fritz had a light bulb moment. Jim and his wife Lois decided to open a store where all wedding products and services would be available under one roof. Today, The Wedding Shoppe Inc. in Saint Paul is an industry leader in wedding style, with 80 expert employees who have a passion for making every couple’s wedding dreams come true. This week we spoke with Carolyn Taylor, Wedding Shoppe Inc.’s Store Manager to learn more about this Grand Avenue treasure.
Q: What does Wedding Shoppe Inc. specialize in?
A: For more than 40 years Wedding Shoppe Inc. has thrived and grown on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul. Our professional and experienced personal shoppers specialize in finding couples exactly what they are looking for, for all of their wedding apparel needs. Brides and Grooms can expect a very personal and unique shopping experience. We love to play a part in helping create the couple’s wedding and make it everything they have dreamed of.
Q: What makes Wedding Shoppe Inc. stand out in terms of bridal gown options?
A: Our customers love to shop and so do we! Wedding Shoppe Inc. is well known for its incredible selection. Our buying team travels across the country to bring the finest collection of designer wedding dresses to our shop. With exclusive one-of-a-kind styles, our brides rave about how their dress is beautiful, unique, and special.
Q: When did Wedding Shoppe Inc. open and how did it begin?
A: Well that starts with Jim and Lois Fritz’s, and Jim tells the story best:
My wife and I founded the Wedding Shoppe in August of 1977. In 1976 I was playing in a three-piece band, booking primarily wedding venues. When the brides-to-be would call me to book the band, they often asked questions about where they could find various products and services related to their wedding plans. One day the light bulb went on and I thought: Why not open a store where all wedding products and services are available under one roof?
With Lois at the tender age of 24 and myself at 26, we borrowed $3,000 from her nurse’s credit union to start the business. I conducted a little research to determine our business name, reviewing telephone directories from around the country at the James J. Hill Reference Library. I literally found no retail location in the country that offered all wedding-related products and services! After deciding on the name Wedding Shoppe, Inc., we chose our slogan, “Your One-Stop Wedding Shoppe,” and trademarked them both. We were in business!
We started in our small house in South St. Paul, where we offered catering, fresh and silk flowers, invitations, and free information on hall rentals, bands, and other wedding-related vendors. We soon realized that our small house was not adequate for our growing business, and Lois found our present location at 1196 Grand Avenue in early 1978. This move allowed us more room, but more importantly the opportunity to expand into bridal gowns, bridesmaid dresses, mothers’ and flower girl attire, and men’s formal wear.
Our newly purchased house cost $54,000, and was very tiny. It consisted of two bedrooms, an upstairs bathroom, one small kitchen, and a dining and living room on the main floor. The gentleman whom we purchased the home from asked, “What are you planning to do with the house?” We told him about the Wedding Shoppe and he exclaimed, “Sounds like a great idea!” He then proceeded to say that he and his business partner were construction contractors planning to try their hand at a business up in northern Minnesota. What were they planning to call it? Blue Fin Bay Resort! I think it’s safe to say we were all lucky enough to experience the American Dream.
The Wedding Shoppe continued to grow and evolve over the years, and we now own five buildings on the Avenue, including two retail locations at 1196 and 1201 Grand. We started our E-commerce website in 2009, which allows us to reach customers all over the world. In 2012, we decided to give our customers exactly what they were asking for by designing our own line of bridesmaid dresses, Kennedy Blue. Soon we were designing bridal gowns, veils, and men’s accessories, too! Now this successful wedding line has become its own company, and you can view and purchase every design at www.KennedyBlue.com.
With so many new endeavors, our team has grown from 2 to 80 employees since 1977. Roles include retail, customer service, marketing, merchandising, product fulfillment, website development, and technology. I look forward to seeing where we go next!
Q: What is an average day in the Shoppe like?
A: Exciting! Every day we are lucky enough to be able to help our wonderful couples plan their wedding.
Q: What would you want the bride looking for their perfect gown to know?
A: It is so important to LOVE your dress. You know you have found the perfect gown when the dress makes you feel happy and beautiful.
Q: Any advice for brides who don’t have a specific vision of how they would like to look on their wedding day? Where should they start?
A: They should start at the Wedding Shoppe! As experts in the industry, we offer experience, selection, and incredible customer service. We are celebrating our 40th anniversary and have outfitted over 200,000 weddings. Our brides are one of a kind, and so are we. Our helpful consultants will make their vision a reality. With listening ears, a fantastic sense of style and a vison of perfection. They will help find the perfect dress!
Q: Do you have any memorable dress shopping stories you could share with us?
A: There are so many! Where do we begin. Each shopping experience has its magical moment at The Wedding Shoppe.
Q: How do you choose the gowns you carry in your store?
A: We have a buying team that travels to various markets across the country to bring our customers beautiful and unique dresses from all over the world.
Q: What do you like about working in the wedding industry?
A: For nearly 40 years The Wedding Shoppe has thrived and grown. We are truly one of the great success stories. We love being an industry leader and always adapting and learning new things in an ever-changing industry. The Wedding Shoppe Inc. partners with so many fantastic vendors on a local and national level. It is very rewarding to be able to work with so many talented wedding vendors who all have one common goal: to make the couples wedding day perfect for the product or service they are offering.
Wedding Shoppe Lighting Round:
Q: Describe Wedding Shoppe in 3 words:
A: Wedding Shoppe Inc. creates a memorable and personalized shopping experience that is truly unique. So I would say the three words that would resonate with our company would be: Memorable, Personalized, and Unique.
Q: Red or White?
A: Wine? Yes, Please!
Q: Favorite movie?
A: Father of the Bride
Q: Black Tie or Shabby Chic?
A: Shabby Chic
Q: Chocolate or Vanilla?
Q: Heels or Flats?
Q: Veil or no Veil?
Q: Lace or Silk?
Q: Strapless or straps?
Images Courtesy of The Wedding Shoppe