DALLAS — Love and marriage have proved to be bigger business than executives at Stanley Korshak thought possible.
Sales at the store’s two-year-old bridal boutique mushroomed to almost $1 million last year, according to Crawford Brock, president of the specialty store. “We had no idea it would be this big,” he said.
This year, Brock doubled the size of the bridal salon to 5,000 square feet, providing an extra 1,000 square feet of selling space and room for three alterations sewers and extra stock. Business should jump at least 20 percent this year, he forecasted.
Korshak has lured brides and debutantes by the dozen by providing elegant and often exclusive lines in an intimate atmosphere with attentive service.
“We are building our business based on exclusive arrangements with designers, so we represent gowns that can’t be purchased anywhere else,” explained Nina Austin, manager of the bridal salon. “We started the store with 12 or more designers, and I’m whittling away and eliminating designers every season. I’d like to get to the point where we have seven or eight, but all are exclusive.”
The store currently offers nine bridal lines, of which six are offered in Dallas only at Korshak. Exclusivity provides more than cachet and a unique inventory. Such close relationships with designers enable Korshak to call on them for special requests, like sewing up a dress especially fast for a bride who has decided suddenly to plunge into marriage.
Vera Wang’s line, which Korshak offers exclusively in all of north Texas, is the top performer. “We have brides come to see her things from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and Colorado,” Austin pointed out. “She has a very distinctive, recognizable look.”
Korshak also has exclusive arrangements with Helen Benton, Alvina Valenta and English designer Sara Susa. Patti Flowers, an in-house designer, is available to style custom fashions for brides, their mothers and attendants.
Other bridal designers, such as Richard Glasgow and Bob Evans, sell to other local stores, but also design some gowns exclusively for Korshak.
The focus is up market, with gowns starting at about $1,800 and going as high as $10,000. The boutique also offers bridesmaid dresses by Dessy Creations and Jim Heljm, custom shoes by Emma Hope, garters made of antique lace, and unusual veils and headpieces decorated with tiny porcelain flowers.
The salon is separate from the main Stanley Korshak store, which faces it across the central courtyard at the Shops at the Hotel Crescent Court. It has the ambience of a couture boutique; visitors are received on the first floor and then escorted up a white staircase to luxuriously spacious fitting rooms where the selling takes place.
“This business is about being involved with something very special — it’s not just retail,” Austin pointed out. “It’s being involved in the most important dress in someone’s life.”
She should know. Austin has logged 10 years as a wedding consultant and continues to offer those services through her association with Korshak. The shop is like bridal headquarters, offering not only the fashions but consultants who can plan the whole affair or just show up to help the bride get dressed.
Korshak’s direct connection with some of the best caterers in town and one of the top florists offers a synergistic opportunity for cross marketing. The specialty retailer is owned by Rosewood Corp., which also owns the Mansion on Turtle Creek, Zen Floral Design Studio, Lady Primrose tea room and a half interest in the Crescent Court Hotel retail and office complex.
Korshak also gets extra business in the main store for trousseaus, mother-of-the-bride dresses, rehearsal dinner clothing, jewelry and bridal registry for tabletop items, etc.
Some services are free. “We hear a lot about the trials, tribulations, stress and trauma because sometimes the brides don’t want to go to their mother and friends,” Austin said. “So everyone here has a kind of advanced degree in counseling.”
Free delivery and pressings, including for separate portrait sittings, are also part of the services. On busy days, when the store is supplying several dresses, everyone, from the staff deliveryman to Brock himself, has been known to ferry dresses to the site of the marriage service.
Lately, those dresses tend to be made of silk satin, frequently in a princess silhouette with little trim. Some of the newest styles sport slightly contrasting trim, in such pale colors as ice blue or ecru. Puffy layers of tulle still sell, but are losing popularity, Austin noted.
“There is more emphasis on classic timelessness,” she pointed out.”Organza is taking the place of tulle for a light look.”