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Hartselle bridal shop with customers worldwide expands

January 11, 2019

HARTSELLE, Ala. (AP) — A Hartselle bridal shop that has sent gowns to South Africa, Scotland, Ireland, France and Australia is in the midst of an expansion that will double its floor space.

The Something Blue Shoppe — a landmark on Main Street and one of the oldest bridal shops in the state — turns 50 this year.

“There are a lot of places to buy a wedding gown, but we go the extra mile because we want the experience to be special,” said Sarah Morris, who has owned The Something Blue Shoppe for 30 years.

The business, which has 24 employees and has served brides in every state but Hawaii, is increasing its floor space to 6,500 square feet.

“It’s a fabulous place to do business,” said Dena Stephenson of Hartselle, who purchased her wedding gown at the store 37 years ago.

Her daughter, Meeda Bosse, married May 27, 2017, and she, too, purchased her gown in the store. Bosse said she had an appointment at another bridal shop the day she went into The Something Blue Shoppe.

“We had such a good experience that we canceled that (other) appointment,” she said.

Bosse said the groom and groomsmen also got their tuxedos at the shop.

Stephenson said the employees at the store took over after asking a few questions and provided her daughter with selections she hadn’t thought about.

Morris — who has been the cornerstone of the business for three decades — said the expansion came after events fell into place and was something she had pondered for years.

She said the old Joe Roberts store building next door was empty and the family was selling the facility.

“We’ve needed more space, and if we hadn’t bought the building someone else would have,” Morris said.

Although downtown Hartselle is known primarily for its antique shops, Mayor Randy Garrison said the bridal shop probably attracts more people from different places than any other business on Main Street.

“Something Blue is an institution in Hartselle, and it’s hard to go somewhere and not find someone who hasn’t heard about it,” Garrison said.

The expansion’s biggest impact will increase the storage space for wedding gowns from 70 square feet to 500 square feet.

Morris said the original business was started in an old bank building by Betty Prince, and the bank’s vault was used to store gowns. She said the expansion will also allow the shop to carry more inventory, have a designated dress room and provide office spaces for the five management-level employees who shared office space in one of the bank’s teller cages.

“We have 24 full- and part-time employees and this will give all our employees more space to better serve customers,” Morris said.

Melanie Munger has been office manager at the shop for 18 years and is also a generational customer. In 1981, she purchased her wedding gown in The Something Blue Shoppe when the Prince family operated the business and also bought her two daughters’ gowns in the shop when they married.

“The shop was much smaller then, but it’s the place you knew to go for a gown,” she said.

Morris grew up in a business in downtown Hartselle because her parents, Cecil and Floy Johnson, operated Johnson’s Clothing Store from 1947 until 1974. She was working as a dental hygienist when she learned that the Prince family was thinking about selling the business.

Morris said her late husband — Donald Morris — gave her the OK to use their three daughters’ college fund to purchase the business.

“He told me I had to make enough money to send them to college,” she said and laughed. “They all three graduated college without any student loans.”

Morris said there were 27 gowns in the business when she purchased it and 25 of them were discontinued. Including herself, the business had three employees, but she never doubted her decision.

Something Blue, which provides every service for a wedding except food and photography, sold about 400 to 500 gowns annually during Morris’ first two decades as owner.

“We’ve doubled that the last 10 years, and just about all of our gowns are ordered,” she said.

A significant percentage of the customer base is generational, “mothers and grandmothers who had a good experience,” Morris said.

But they are not just from north Alabama, said Kim Williams, who has been a consultant at the shop for six years. She said she worked with a bride from Scotland last year and five from Texas.

“We help brides all over the world, and it’s the experience we provide,” Williams said.

T.J. Holmes has been the business’ general manager for five years and the only male employee. Morris calls him the “guru of bridal” and he has traveled with her to bridal shows in Rome, London and Barcelona.

In his first week as an employee, Holmes said he worked with a bride from Australia and a few weeks ago worked with twin brides from Ireland who had been in medical school in the U.S. but returned home to marry.

“Our job starts when they leave the store,” Holmes said. “It’s a huge undertaking, but we have to provide what we have promised for this special day.”

He said the service is the same, regardless of where the bride is from or how much they are spending.

“A wedding is a special day and an emotional time,” Holmes said.

A few doors down from the bridal shop, Morris opened Something Blue II, which targets customers during prom season.

She said “bride and prom girls” are different and the businesses needed to be separated. But regardless of what door customers walk through, Morris said employees share the same goal.

“Provide quality services,” she said. “That’s how we’ve managed to be in business 50 years.”

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Information from: The Decatur Daily, http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml

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