Helene’s Bridal Salon
- 422 Portage Avenue
Going from selling confectionery to outfitting women for one of life’s biggest moments hasn’t been a small leap for the third shop owner at the helm of Helene’s Bridal Salon, Annette Frank – but it’s been a rewarding one.
“It’s people’s biggest day, and it’s contagious,” says Frank. “It’s always been a dream to own my own business, and this is a very emotional, lovely business to be a part of… and it’s less fattening too than being around chips and candy bars,” she jokes.
Trading in sweets for sweet memories suits the new fashion retailer, who entrusted much of the direction of the heritage business to its long-time staffers who stayed on during her transition to acquire the shop.
Since 1952, Helene’s Bridal has been the downtown destination for gowns, and can credit staffers for terms as long as 17-plus years of service.
“We’ve got generations of people (as customers),” says Frank. “They sold to mom, and now they’re selling to daughter for grad.”
The iconic, prime storefront on Portage Avenue hasn’t hurt business either.
While always reinventing the display for new seasons, the staffers went the extra mile while the Jets were in the playoffs in 2018, and swapped the mannequins’ gowns for jerseys for the many event goers passing by.
With the industry experts at her side, Frank’s been able to introduce some differentiating lines to her shop, as well as expand the sizes she carries in bridal wear.
“One of the first things they said is we need to carry bigger sizes,” says Frank, of her bridal consultants. “That was one of the first things that we invested in – we want to cater to every bride.
“We actually have a section – not just one or two styles.”
Frank’s found that word spreads when you find your niche, and it helps that downtown has several bridal destinations to piggyback off of. “Everyone kind of calls this the ‘bridal hub,’” she says. “They target us or them and walk to all of them. We’re a bridal destination.”
Expanding their offering to meet more brides’ needs felt right to tenured bridal consultants at Helene’s, including long-time consultant Joanne Clark.
“I think the ones you most relate to are the girls who can’t have everything in the store,” says Clark. “(Maybe) they’ve been rejected by other people in the industry… (but) you can make anybody’s dream come true.
“When you turn every table so to speak to make it their own, it’s pretty special.
“If you’re not getting married at Westminster Abbey, that’s okay. We’ll sort of scale it down… We’ll lose the crown,” she laughs.