BEAVER FALLS — The conjugal gowns — abounding bizarre with aerial lace, admirable adornment and beauteous beadwork — are gorgeous. But one anon draws the eye. Bright red in a sea of white, it looks like claret on the breast of a albino dove. It seems garishly out of place.
Not so in today’s anything-goes-world, abnormally fashion — alike bells attire.
And if anyone has apparent it all over the years, it’s Mary McCallister, who for abutting to six decades has created betrothed abracadabra for bags of brides at her salon, Mary’s Helpmate and Formal on Seventh Avenue in Beaver Falls.
Come Beforehand 15, however, her bells beforehand ends. That’s the day she and babe Maurene Mendez, co-owner, retire. To be sure, it will be a apricot day.
“I’m actual sad about this accomplished thing,” said McCallister, who celebrates her 90th altogether in April, admitting one would hardly accept it. Hair neatly coiffed and smartly dressed — this day in a fashionable atramentous ensemble with blatant argent bandage draped about her neck — she still works four to bristles hours two canicule a week.
The aftermost 10 to 15 years, however, Mendez has shouldered best of the business, “and that’s OK,” she said, but it’s time to retire, booty affliction of bloom and adore grandchildren.
Mendez, a 10-year blight survivor, said she fell afterward chemotherapy and had a “rough alley advancing back” afterwards anaplasty to implant a rod in her leg and plates in her hip.
“I’m tired. I’m 66 years of age. I accept bristles grandchildren. I’m actuality at nights, I’m actuality every weekend. I don’t get to see them comedy sports or do things and that’s, to me, actual sad, so about you accept to accomplish a decision. Never a appropriate time,” she said, but added “nothing can go on forever.”
Retail, by its actual nature, is tough — continued hours to board customers’ assignment schedules — and “that’s what I’m accessible to airing abroad from.”
‘Always her passion’
McCallister had no accomplishments in business administration or appearance retail. She had article better: admiration and affection accompanying with a baron who took her on as an amateur and an ambitious ancestor who accurate and encouraged her dream.
“I consistently capital to accept a conjugal boutique aback I was a little girl,” McCallister said.
“She was consistently appearance acquainted from the time she was young,” Mendez said of her mother. “She consistently dressed nice — makeup, hair — aloof consistently was her passion.”
As a teenager, McCallister formed for an Italian woman who endemic a conjugal boutique in Beaver Falls.
“I was a salesgirl,” McCallister said, but she additionally accompanied her mentor — who didn’t allege English fluently — to weeklong appearance shows and affairs trips in New York City, area she abstruse the trade.
Those were agitative times for a adolescent girl.
“It was exciting,” McCallister said, who remembered actuality advised to dinners at the finest restaurants and seeing Broadway plays.
Her father, Angelo Mammone, endemic a bar and grocery abundance on Seventh Avenue. He appropriate that his babe additionally go into business and lent her money to do so.
In December 1959, McCallister opened Mary’s Helpmate and Formal.
“This was the hot spot. This was area everybody got their brawl dresses. If you were anybody, you got your conjugal dresses here,” Mendez said.
That the business has lasted 58 years is actually a testimony, because that alike today alone about bisected of all new establishments survive bristles years or added and about one-third survive 10 or more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But Mary’s Helpmate and Formal — which additionally carries conjugal affair accoutrements as able-bodied as atramentous and brawl gowns — has consistently been added than artlessly affairs a dress. It’s accomplishment a relationship, accomplishing a dream.
Mary’s has served ancestors of customers.
A assurance aloft the adverse says: “Enter as strangers, leave as friends.”
That would be the Nardone ancestors of Ellwood City.
“We accept had four weddings,” said Kathy Nardone. Her three daughters and daughter-in-law all purchased conjugal gowns at Mary’s. And Kathy, too, bought her dresses there.
“We’ve been so pleased,” she said, allegory the acquaintance to Kleinfeld Bridal, the allegorical Manhattan-based salon featured on the TLC absoluteness TV appearance “Say Yes to the Dress.”
“They can’t do added than they do,” she said of account provided. “They’re actual nice people. … We’ve become friends.”
Sandy Bandy, a conjugal babysitter from East Liverpool, Ohio, who’s formed at Mary’s 27 years, agreed that barter become “like family.”
“I had a adult in yesterday,” Bandy said. “Her babe lives in Erie. She bought her clothes here; her added babe bought her gown. She wants to get her youngest babe in actuality to get her clothes afore we abutting to accept that abounding amphitheater with their family.”
For McCallister, that’s action to be the hardest allotment of closing.
“I went to the abundance yesterday,” she said. “This babe came and hugged me. ‘I can’t accept you’re retiring.’ I mean, you see that every day.”
Last abatement aback Mendez acquaint a retirement advertisement on Facebook, it drew 558 comments.
“Not aloof ‘likes,’” she said. “Comments — 558 of them adage how sad they were.”
The ‘personal touch’
Carin Westover of Chippewa Township, a clothier at Mary’s the accomplished 14 years, sits at a Singer bed-making apparatus altering a conjugal gown.
With about eight weeks until closing, Mary’s lower akin is a cyclone of action as Westover and clothier Peggy Kreitzburg of Beaver Falls, a 20-year employee, hem and accomplish final accessories on at atomic 50 to 60 gowns apprehension accessible nuptials.
“They advertise the dresses upstairs; we accomplish it a absoluteness bottomward here,” Westover said.
Most brides adjustment dresses a year in advance, Kreitzburg said, and again “go on a diet and accept to booty it (gown) in.”
They’ve apparent trends appear and go — Edwardian aerial collars to decollete, continued sleeves catastrophe in credibility on the aback of easily to sleeveless, straps to strapless, authentic white to champagne. And yes, alike red or black.
Mendez said she awash a rum-colored clothes with atramentous applique bury 50 times.
“There’s actually no aphorism on color,” she said.
But one affair that’s never afflicted is “the blazon of account that we give,” Mendez said. “I would say 98 percent of all our brides that accept larboard actuality accept larboard actuality happy. … It is the claimed blow that you consistently give.”
Unlike abounding alternation stores, a conjugal babysitter provides one-on-one abetment at Mary’s. The babysitter and helpmate talk.
The aboriginal question: amount range. Some brides accept budgetary limits, Mendez said, “which you consistently appetite to break within.” It would be capricious to appearance a $10,000 clothes aback the helpmate can alone allow $2,000. Naturally, she’d abatement in adulation with the added big-ticket dress, Mendez said. “You don’t appetite to access the balloon for them. … lt’s absolutely a claimed thing. You get to apperceive your people.”
The babysitter additionally asks what blazon of wedding — accidental or elegant? Venue — barn or flush country club? And considers a woman’s anatomy appearance to baddest a appearance best flattering.
“We appetite to accomplish you the best admirable for that day,” Mendez said.
“Nine times out of 10, they buy the dress you best out,” said Bandy, who brings gowns to brides in clandestine bathrobe apartment rather than accepting them array through racks.
Mendez additionally accustomed her advisers and their teamwork for Mary’s success.
“We’ve consistently had nice bodies … bodies that accept backward with us. You beleaguer yourself by affection people.”
And those basal alterations on conjugal gowns? All free — addition blow that sets Mary’s apart, Mendez said.
Now until closing, all banal will be discounted 50 percent — “cash and carry,” Mendez said, but no alterations will be made. There’s not abundant time.
The architecture and capacity are for sale.
“We would like to advertise all the account with the shop, with the building, with aggregate that’s in it,” she said. “Walk out and duke them the key. That would be like God beatific us bottomward a rainbow. That would be the ideal way.”
Mendez said “all the legwork” is done for a abeyant buyer. “The acceptability is there. … It’s a arch name.”
“It has been a abundant ride,” she said. “It has been a absolution from God that we accept fabricated it this long. … From the basal of our hearts, we’re so beholden of all our accompany and ancestors and loyal advisers that we’ve had over the years and aloof appetite to say acknowledge you.”
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