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Brides flock to village of Loomis for perfect dress
by Jennifer Chick
Tucked behind a pink storefront on the main street of Loomis is a gem of a store that draws brides-to-be from across Nebraska … and beyond.
The Bridal Isle celebrated 25 years in January, following the advice of founder Marie Thorell, who thought that all brides should be treated like queens for the day. Loomis may seem an unlikely location for a bridal shop, with fewer than 400 people in the village, but the hands-on service and stunning variety of more than 350 bridal gowns lures brides from all corners to the shop in search of that one perfect gown.
“My policy was ‘Be kind to one another and if you can’t have fun, you’re fired,’” Thorell said. “We had a lot of fun at the shop. We ran on chocolate mostly.”
It sounded like fun.
Thorell started the bridal shop in 1984 after her job as bookkeeper for a local grain bin construction company ended and she was looking for work in her 50s.
“I always had, for some reason, in the back of my mind that I would love to have a store,” Thorell said. And the idea of a bridal shop sounded like fun.
“I knew nothing.” Thorell said. “I sat down in my husband’s office with a Modern Bride magazine and looked at what I liked.”
Soon, her house full of wedding and prom dresses, Thorell had girls stopping by to try on gowns, and then she moved into the back room of a craft shop on Commercial Street in Loomis. From there, her shop expanded to take over the entire store, as well as another shop next door.
And now, worldwide.
As Thorell told her husband when he asked how she would bring customers to Loomis, advertising draws them in, even from the wide world of the Web where, about one year ago, The Bridal Isle set up shop at www.bridalisle.com to show merchandise to an even broader customer base.
“It really is the thing to do,” Thorell said. “Girls from all over look.”
And new owner Jonell Mueller plans to keep the Website going. “That’s where a lot of girls go to research before they go to shop,” she said.
Brides can’t buy dresses directly from the website, but The Bridal Isle also sells one-of-a-kind, discontinued wedding dresses on Ebay, gathering customers from England and Germany. Happy customers have become The Bridal Isle’s mainstay.
“If you get a good customer, they’ll go home and tell others,” Thorell said. “That’s what you aim for, a pleased customer.”
A full-service shop.
The Bridal Isle specializes in wedding gowns of all sizes, shapes, and styles, but carries clothing for all members of the bridal party, from tuxedo rentals for the groom and groomsmen, to mother-of-the-bride attire and flower girl dresses. Brides can get all accessories to complete their look at the shop too, including shoes, veils, and jewelry.
After purchasing a gown, the bride has two fittings to make sure the dress fits perfectly. Then the shop stores the gown and steams it in preparation for the big day. The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, the shop’s busiest day as brides-to-be flock to the shop. On most Saturdays, all 10 dressing rooms are occupied.
On March 1, Thorell sold The Bridal Isle to Brad and Jonell Mueller of Funk. Jonell has been working at the shop for seven years, primarily doing alterations and covering sales when needed.
“We’ve been looking to buy a business, and I guess this opportunity came available at the right time,” Mueller said.
Mueller enjoys watching the full circle from the time a bride searches for the perfect dress to her last fitting.
“They all have an idea in their head of what they want, and what they end up with might be completely different,” she said.
Postcards, pictures, and notes surround the Bridal Isle’s front door, thanking the staff for making each bride’s experience complete, and assuring that they will pass the word along about Loomis’s bridal treasure.
A complete experience.
“We want to make it a great experience for brides,” Mueller said. “And we do everything we can to help them, but we still let them make their own decisions.”
Thorell said many local girls go to college but come back to Loomis to shop for their wedding dresses, often bringing friends who will return to the shop later for their own wedding dresses. Brides come from across Nebraska, northern Kansas and Colorado. The Bridal Isle even sold a dress to a customer in France.
“We had to turn the size chart upside down to figure that out,” Thorell said with a laugh.
Mueller has rearranged merchandise and office furniture, but the essence of the shop remains the same as when Thorell founded it 25 years ago.
As Mueller negotiates new terrain, dealing with more than 30 companies who supply the shop with wedding and prom merchandise and many more brides-to-be, she writes her own policy based on a quote from Mother Teresa.
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”
Who To Contact...
The Bridal Isle
Jonell Mueller, owner
315 Commercial St.
Loomis, NE 68958