Atlas Bridal Shop owner maintains family traditionWritten by Matt Liasse | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When she became owner of Atlas Bridal Shop, Jeanne Fairchild knew she would have the position for a long time. Years later, she still has no retirement plan in place.
“I truly enjoy coming to work every day,” she said. “There’s not a morning that I get up and … don’t feel like going to work. I genuinely love it.”
Atlas Bridal Shop, 4895 Monroe St., was opened in 1927 by Anna and John Szaroleta. It specializes in bridal gowns and dresses for bridesmaids and flower girls, as well as mothers’ gowns.
In the beginning, the store featured original gowns made by the owner who dreamed of turning it into a family business. Anna even sent her son, Chet, to school to be a pattern maker before he was drafted into the U.S. Army, Fairchild said.
“When he came back from the Army, he actually wanted to be a doctor but she said no,” Fairchild said.
The shop was originally on Lagrange Street and had a cutting room in a lower level. Customers would choose a design and Chet would make it.
Chet and his wife Dorothy eventually took over the shop from his parents before Fairchild, who is not related, took over in the 1980s. At the time, Fairchild was going into nursing, which she balanced with managing the shop for a short time with the help of two of Chet’s daughters, Lorrie Lewandowski and Lynn Szaroleta.
“I gave up nursing and haven’t looked back,” she said.
Fairchild became the sole owner more than a decade ago, a move she was confident she could handle after learning from the previous owners.
“I was surrounded by the family so I was never afraid,” she said. “Dorothy and Chet have both passed away now [but] I just feel like I try to run the business like I want to make those two proud. I have so much respect for them.”
Fairchild said the values and vision of the shop are the same today as they were almost 90 years ago.
A big part of the business is the interaction between Fairchild and the future brides.
“I love getting to know each girl. I love to hear her story. I love to hear how she met her fiancé, where she’s getting married, what makes her wedding unique,” she said. “I’m genuinely interested in these girls.”
Today, the shop includes dresses by designers including Allure Bridals, Sottero & Midgely, Maggie Sottero, Alfred Angelo, Bill Levkoff and, Fairchild’s favorite, Mori Lee.
“We’ve carried them forever; we have one of their earliest account numbers,” she said. “They’re reasonably priced, they’re well-made and their style is very versatile.”
In addition to wedding attire, Atlas Bridal Shop also sells dresses for proms. Blue by Atlas Bridal Shop will open within the next couple of weeks in order for teenagers to prepare for one of their junior and senior years’ biggest events.
This is the fourth year the seasonal shop has been catering to the needs of local high school students.
Blue by Atlas Bridal will be open until May and will open again for homecoming in the fall. For more information, visit bluebyatlasbridal.com.
Fairchild said her employees feel like family. There are 16 long-term employees working at the shop. The operations supervisor, Tiffany Strock, has been with the company for half her life; she began working there part-time when she was 16.
“Working here is like working with your family; we’re like a big, happy family,” Strock said.
There are also two seamstresses who have been with the company for more than three decades.
“We know a lot of everyone’s personal business, whether we want to or not,” head seamstress Jo Hafner said. “But it’s nice because if you have any type of family problems or something dramatic, everyone sticks together.”
“I have the greatest bunch of people working for me and it’s very much like a family; we’re very much involved in each other’s lives and, because of that, we work as a team,” she said.