strathroy bridal

When LIFE gives you LEMONS.

Running a bridal business has so many ups and downs, so many decisions to be made.  Just when you think you got a good handle on those decisions, life gives you lemons.  You come to a crossroad and you must choose how to proceed.  Let me just tell you, we have enough lemonade over here for everyone in this town!  

A shot of owner, Erin Bouchard standing in the original Once Upon A Time Weddings location at 6 Front St. W. Photography by Nova Markina.

A shot of owner, Erin Bouchard standing in the original Once Upon A Time Weddings location at 6 Front St. W. Photography by Nova Markina.

When I opened my business I searched and searched for the PERFECT location to open up my bridal store.  I looked at some real special places, some that needed lots of work and some that would have been okay.  When I found 6 Front St. W I was excited to watch the renovations and felt like we had found our home.  When we were approached two years ago to move from 6 Front St. W to 2 Front St. W we were excited for the change.  We felt the space better represented our brand and the feel we were going for with the store.  After we moved we were quite disappointed to find out that we would not have an option to renew our lease.  So we talked to landlord last December and decided we would start the agonizing search of finding a new home for Once Upon A Time Weddings.  We again searched through many properties.  Some might have worked, some we immediately returned home and showered.  Given the unique challenge of running a business while trying to raise a family and balance the rest of our lives, we decided to look for a building we could live in and run the business out.

A shot of Once Upon A Time Weddings when it was located at 2 Front St. W in Strathroy.

A shot of Once Upon A Time Weddings when it was located at 2 Front St. W in Strathroy.

It seemed our prayers and hopes had been answered when we located 20 Caradoc St. N in Strathroy.  It was the perfect combination of store and family home.  It’s recently been beautifully redone and we were excited about the possibility of relocating the store to this location.  

We talked to our current landlord and were given the green light to go ahead and break our lease early in order to secure this new location.  Our lease had no escape clause, but we trusted her word that we were good to go.  We did all the necessary steps that needed to be taken to move down the road.  We were excited, tired, and couldn’t wait to reopen at our new location.

A shot of the front door at the NEW location of 20 Caradoc St. N in Strathroy.

A shot of the front door at the NEW location of 20 Caradoc St. N in Strathroy.

For about a month we lived the dream.  It seemed we had a great set up.  I felt like my life was manageable.  Like I could help brides say yes to the dress, while juggling all of my other responsibilities.  

Then the lemons came.

We were told we were going to be held responsible for the last year of our lease.  That she wasn’t accepting our 90 day written notice as escaping our contractual obligations.

So, here we stand at the crossroads.  Do we admit defeat and pay off the balance of our lease?  Or do we move the store back down the road for the last year of our term?  Do we do something else with the old store - like bridesmaids or an outlet bridal store?  

Unfortunately, while our legal team works this one out, we continue to stand at this crossroads.  Our promise to you, our customers, is that as we know more we’ll let you know.  That we’ll let you journey this road with us.  And we’ll even let you help us move our stuff back too if that’s the route we end up going.

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What Does It Mean to Shop Local?

Once Upon A Time Weddings has been open the past three and a half years and we’ve literally helped hundreds and hundreds of customers from all over Southwestern Ontario. I opened this store because I wanted customers in my hometown to have a store where they could go for all the big moments in their life - graduation, prom, weddings, daughter or son getting married, or to rent a tuxedo for one of these occasions. I have met so many lovely people and learned so much about business, life and weddings.

One of my biggest frustrations with owning a small, local business is the whole shop local mentality of so many local customers. Just this week I had a customer into my store who was looking for a gown for her daughter’s wedding this summer. She literally informed me that she would most likely be purchasing her gown from London, but she thought she would look in here while she out downtown, and maybe by some miracle she might find something. Some miracle? Is that what it will take for you to break down your mentality of local stores and think of us in a different light?

Owner Erin Bouchard with husband, Joel

Or what about my local bride who was in a few weeks ago, who informed me that she came to our store out of complete desperation, since she had already been all over London and couldn’t find the right color for her girls, so they figured, well we might as well try that little store in Strathroy and maybe we’ll get lucky.

How do we change this thinking? How do we see value in what our local stores offer us? Why do we have to be your last chance?

I get it. I truly do. I was once a teenager in this town too. I remember what it was like to have to go into London every single time I wanted to shop. When I was growing up in Strathroy there wasn’t a lot offered for my style and price points. Maybe we’re conditioned to continue to think that we then have to go into London or Sarnia to find something to suit us. Or maybe we believe it’s that much cheaper to shop elsewhere.

It’s time to change our thinking.

Stores like Once Upon A Time Weddings bring hundreds of brides and their entourages into our downtown every year. We’ve built up a very reputable business and have had brides from as far away as Toronto, Windsor, and more come to Strathroy. They spend their dollars at our restaurants, shoe stores, children’s clothing stores, and more while they are here.

So what can you do? First of all, let’s change our mentality of never being able to find something good here in town. This year, I gave myself the challenge to purchase all three of my kids Christmas gifts right here in Strathroy. I was surprised at how successful I was and how inexpensive it really was. Most important I saved myself time and money from not driving to London. Let’s give the wonderful stores that we have here in Strathroy a fair chance. Will every bride, graduate, mother and bridal party find the one in our store? Maybe not. But they can have an open mind and shop locally first before they’ve been to every single other bridal store.

Secondly, if you’ve searched all around before coming to our store, it’s not really a compliment to tell me that. No one wants to know you were their last ditch effort.

Consultant Katie Eastman during Dallas Bridal Market

There are literally so many benefits to shopping locally. Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, which supports a wide range of jobs and enriches the whole community. Shopping at Once Upon A Time Weddings mean you will support local families and continue to boost our downtown economy. So the next time you’re tempted to think you are shopping local for our benefit, remember having stores like ours in Strathroy, benefits you and so many others. Isn’t it time we changed our thinking?