Entrepreneurs / Small Business  February 11, 2011

Krieger ready to dress brides to be

Opening a new retail store in an iffy economy is not for the faint of heart.

Enter Timiry Krieger.

“I saw a need in town and was surprised that no one has swooped in (to fill it),´ said Krieger, who will soon open Dora Grace, a custom-order bridal salon in Fort Collins. “I started on this last January and the whole time I was afraid someone else would swoop in.”

It’s an attractive market, despite a downturn of late. There are about 2.2 million weddings every year in the U.S., according to the Wedding Report, a research firm. Total spending, including flowers, food and drink, was $42 billion last year, down from $47 billion in 2008 and a peak of $63 billion in 2007. And every bride needs a dress.

Krieger’s won’t be the only bridal store in Fort Collins, but it will be the only one offering custom gowns in a contemporary setting.

This has not been a long-time dream for the 30-year-old entrepreneur.

“I think that will be an advantage at the end of the day,” she said. “A lot of bridal stores are started by women invested in the wedding industry, such as wedding planners, and they’re not focusing on dresses.”

Krieger moved to Colorado from Chicago and was originally in advertising sales. She now does business development for an engineering firm. “If I can sell engineering services, I can sell bridal dresses,” she said.

Krieger’s choice of retail venture was influenced by her college roommate, sorority sister and close friend who herself owns two bridal stores in Tennessee. “She suggested I open a business here,” she expained. “Hers is a great business model.”

Melanie Long, co-owner of The White Room, said Krieger has worked with her on many occasions in her stores and has accompanied her on trips to market as well.

“She’s watched us take it step by step,” Long said. “She’s stayed involved and very hands-on. She’s ready. She’s done so much ground work.”

Reality factor

Ready she is. When Dora Grace opens in March, brides from up and down the Front Range and Wyoming can come in and “Say Yes to the Dress.”

Which, by the way, begs the question: How has the popular TLC show benefited other bridal store owners? Or has it?

“I watch it all the time,” confessed Krieger, noting that in real life it’s “refreshing to see that not all brides-to-be are bridezillas.”

But it has changed the way some brides look for that special dress. Before they might have taken their mother and/or maid of honor; now they arrive with an entourage of sisters, aunts, cousins, friends and maybe even the bridegroom.

“They’re coming along for a reason,” Krieger said. “They want to be part of the day as well.”

It also means that savvy bridal store owners need to come up with ways to cater to the entourage as well as to the bride-to-be. It might mean popping the occasional bottle of champagne.

Dora Grace – named for Krieger’s grandmother – will have an upscale, modern ambiance thanks in part to its lofty location above Elliot’s Martini Bar on Linden Street in Old Town. Exposed brick and expansive windows replace traditional wedding-store motifs of white and mauve and pink.

“I looked at other locations, but for the price I’m getting and the character it has, nothing really compared,” Krieger said. “It seemed a lot more perfect than other places.”

Affordable customer service

Dora Grace will initially carry 40 to 50 samples from designers Maggie Sottero, Onovias and Ori Lee. And unlike the astronomical prices on “Say Yes to the Dress,” brides will find dresses that fit budgets of a few hundred to $2,000. The shop will also offer bridesmaids dresses, shoes and accessories, and might later add a line of tuxedos as well.

Krieger is keeping her eyes and options open. “I’ve been doing a lot of reconnaissance and a lot of friends have gotten engaged during this process and I’ve gotten to see what other stores are doing in terms of customer service, amenities and follow up.”

Customer service is key. “That’s the only way to stand apart from the competition,” she said. “It means knowing who’s coming in and doing special things, like putting her name on the dressing room, and knowing the number of people in her entourage.”

Financing the new store was made possible with cash injections from friends and their parents as well as a loan from the Small Business Administration “Honestly, I didn’t think it would work,” Krieger admits.

Bridal stores, her friend Melanie Long commented, are essentially recession-proof. “A lot of people think retail is something troubled by the economy. It is somewhat, but there’s always someone getting married and other special events for which people save for and plan for. The economy hasn’t affected either one of our businesses here in Tennessee.”

Krieger is now taking appointments. Brides-to-be can find Dora Grace on Facebook or e-mail timiry@doragrace.com. A website – doragrace.com – should be up soon.

Opening a new retail store in an iffy economy is not for the faint of heart.

Enter Timiry Krieger.

“I saw a need in town and was surprised that no one has swooped in (to fill it),´ said Krieger, who will soon open Dora Grace, a custom-order bridal salon in Fort Collins. “I started on this last January and the whole time I was afraid someone else would swoop in.”

It’s an attractive market, despite a downturn of late. There are about 2.2 million weddings every year in the U.S., according to the Wedding Report, a research firm. Total…

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