Earlier this year, Dianne Ferguson’s small shop on Hord Street in Grayson seemed doomed.
“Everything was cancelled,” said Ferguson, who has owned and operated Wilma’s Dress Shop for 37 years. The shop has built a reputation for personal service and a selection including bridal gowns and wedding attire, as well as homecoming fashions and clothes for other formal events.
“It really hit the formal business because the proms were cancelled. Weddings were cancelled,” she said. “People didn’t pick their layaways up … People weren’t able to pay because people lost jobs and couldn’t afford to buy a dress for a prom that wasn’t even going to happen.”
“It just came to a screeching halt,” Ferguson said, estimating she had 189 dresses on layaway when the Covid 19 shut down began, “and that’s not counting what’s on the (sales) floor.”
The small business owner said it was immediately apparent the shop had to find another way to connect with it’s broad customer base, which includes clients who come from places including North Carolina and New York, “but mainly from the Tri-State area.”
“We had to up the game”
“We had to up the game with more boutique clothing,” Ferguson said, explaining customers were especially drawn to a line of shirts featuring themes ranging from spirituality to burley tobacco.
“We had to have a bigger variety to make up for the losses. We started doing more online casual and casual lounge wear,” she said.
Weddings Won’t Wait
Ferguson smiles as she confesses her passion for the wedding side of her business.
“To see the sparkle in the girl’s eye … to see that she is happy. When they can’t stop looking at themselves in the mirror – you know they’re likely to say yes to the dress. And, then you see lots of tears.”
Earlier this year, “everybody had changed their wedding day,” Ferguson said, again smiling as she noted anxious brides were not to be deterred for too long and are now reformulating plans for their big days.
“They are ready to go!” Ferguson said, adding “People are still doing big weddings but with fewer guests.”
While many types of apparel are purchased online, Ferguson said brides-to-be still want to try on their wedding dress, have alterations done if needed, and coordinate their wedding party’s appearance.
At this point, Ferguson said the numbers are starting to look good again.
“I think we’re doing good now. We’re staying busy and we have all new dresses in … including for Homecoming if anyone wants to go,” she said, explaining a couple of area schools have decided to allow those events.
Wilma’s Dress Shop, located at 117 North Hord Street in Grayson with a second location in the Kyova Mall in Cannonsburg, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information call 606-474-5353 or 928-7393, or visit the shop’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wilmasdressshop2/about/?ref=page_internal
Dressed To Impress
Local models Cheyenne Boggs, Aliya Lewis and Katie Sammons donned wedding and homecoming apparel, with Kevin Kelly joining in for the wedding portion, during a recent photo shoot in Ironton, Ohio.
Boggs wore a Mary’s Wedding Dress and later a Mon Cherie homecoming dress by Ellie Wilde, as well as a Jovani dress. Lewis modeled a Mon Cherie by Martin Thornburg and a Jovani dress. Sammons stunned in a mermaid style gown by Martin Thornburg and homecoming dress by Rachel Allen.
Story & Photos by TIM PRESTON
Special thanks to Andrew Allen for photo props and accessories.