I SEE IT EVERY DAY

as I walk into the boutique: a mannequin adorned with an off-white lace homage to the 1970s bridal gown. The poet sleeves, high neck, empire waist and ruffle hem all date it, but I still love it. I’m Sharon Townsend, the owner and manager of Tiffanys Bridal, and I purchased that gown from Tiffanys in 1974, long before I ever dreamed I’d own the store. It’s now part of a vintage gown display we erected in honor of Tiffanys’ 45th anniversary. People have actually asked to try on my gown since we put it on display, so I guess everything comes back in style eventually! More often I hear comments from a bride’s mom about how she wore a similar gown. If she’s from Richmond, the mom making the comment usually purchased her gown from Tiffanys, because we are Richmond’s oldest bridal store.

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Tiffanys began just as much a family business as it is today; Peggy’s mother, the late Ruby Barnes, trained Gary’s mother, Marinel Wright, so that she could manage branches of the store. Marinel, who is now in her 90s, recalled the commitment the bridal store required, telling me she was at the store from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Gary said he will always remember his mother saying, “If a bride comes to Tiffanys and wants a dress for $2,000, we roll out the red carpet for her. And when the next bride comes in and wants a dress for $200, we roll out that same red carpet.” I couldn’t agree more – I always say that I want every bride who comes to Tiffanys to recall her recall her experience with the same fondness that I do.

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I started as a consultant and was promoted to manager several months before taking that leap to small business owner; I knew the store had great potential, but it needed a fresh perspective on the bridal business to realize that potential. So we relocated to the Ridge Shopping Center on Parham Road just in time to celebrate the boutique’s 40th Anniversary. The new location’s spacious dressing rooms and elegant atmosphere gave Tiffanys a makeover that has transformed this “something old” into “something new.” Tiffanys has become so much more to me since that transition -- I think of the consultants as family and absolutely love working with these lovely ladies (and Bari, our wonderful tuxedo manager and token male).

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We celebrated our 45th Anniversary in March with a fabulous in-store party (see photos by Marvelous Things Photography here), and we’re thrilled that so many Tiffanys Brides, family and friends came to help us celebrate. Big thanks to everyone for making it such a special day, including the many mothers and daughters who both bought their gowns at Tiffanys like the beautiful ladies pictured here. We are continuing the celebration throughout the year with specials, including our Designer-of-the-Month, and events (we have surprises in store for The BIG Sale on September 7, so mark your calendars!).

I recently connected with the original owners of Tiffanys to learn more about the store’s history and obtain memorabilia for the anniversary display. Gary and Margaret “Peggy” Wright (pictured below with me, Carolyn and Gary's mom), opened their first bridal store in Carytown in 1969. Within a year they renamed it Tiffanys Bridal & Formal, and the name was meant to invoke a high level of personal service to brides shopping for their wedding gown. Gary told me they wanted the store to be the “Tiffany’s” of the bridal gown business.

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Tiffanys Bridal is a Richmond tradition. I’ve made some changes, but I never considered changing the name because I wanted to carry on the tradition of unparalleled personal service for all brides. My journey to owning the store started when I became, like many Richmond women, a repeat customer: I bought my gown at Tiffanys, so naturally I took my daughter there when she was getting married. I had acted as a freelance wedding planner for more than 20 years, and when we were shopping at Tiffanys I mentioned a few things that must have indicated I was knowledgeable about weddings. Before our appointment ended, our consultant insisted that I apply for a job at Tiffanys. I applied, unsure whether or not I would take the position if it was offered. It turned out that our consultant knew better than me how much I would love the job!

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We’ve also received numerous awards from local magazines and theknot.com recognizing us as a must-visit boutique when shopping for bridal gowns in Richmond. Since Carolyn and I took over Tiffanys, we’ve traveled the world to see the latest trends and learn from the industry’s top designers, including the extraordinarily talented Jose Dias with Justin Alexander and David Tutera, whose partnership with Mon Cheri has resulted in amazing creations. But it’s not rubbing elbows with celebrities that has made this venture the best decision of my life – it’s getting to know each bride, learning her story and then sharing in the beautiful moments that will become her memories of this special time in her life. I cherish each one, and am blessed each time someone becomes a Tiffanys Bride.

photos by Marvelous Things Photography

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