Ashley’s caters to bridal, prom needs
Connie Kim made small talk with a customer near the dressing rooms on Tuesday as she helped her pick the perfect matron-of-honor dress for an upcoming wedding. Kim, the owner of Ashley’s Bridal on Route 26 in Millville, said her three children — one being the bridal shop’s namesake — cannot wait to move from the Philadelphia suburbs to the beach. Her 11-year-old original Ashley’s Bridal location just north of the city can now pretty much run itself, she said.
Kim represents a now-common population on the Delaware coast: earlier this month, she followed her parents from a metro area to the coastal region, where she plans to one day settle while offering locals a practical, convenient service.
The service: saving local brides, prom-goers and anyone else in need of a dress or menswear for special occasions a half-hour drive by allowing them to plan at a nearby shop.
“There was never a bridal shop here,” said Kim, who attended Lord Baltimore Elementary in Ocean View until the fourth grade before moving away with her parents. “I love it,” she said of the area. “I think it’s perfect. We’ve been getting such a response.”
Open since Jan. 2, “there’s not much the bride would need that we don’t have,” said Kim, who owns both shops with her husband, John. Ashley’s sells garters, frames, invitations, tiaras, glasses, shoes and — of course — dresses. Tuxes will also be available to rent.
Gowns at the store currently start around $300 and top out around $1,000. Kim plans to bring more bridal gowns down from the Pennsylvania store, too, as she gauges public interest and the local market.
Bridal gowns line the front room of the store beyond the glass porch, which serves as a showcase for the new shop, located across Route 26 from Al Casapula’s. To the right, prom dresses in almost every color imaginable hang back-to-back in a separate room. In the room to the left, Ashley’s offers mothers’ dresses and other dresses for most any occasion.
Kim said she plans to add lingerie to the shop’s repertoire — upstairs — and was awaiting the arrival of the first batch earlier this week. Dresses can even be made, altered or customized inside the Millville shop.
Kim said that she does not know of any formal training for dress-makers but she has practiced the craft throughout her 11-year business-owning career. A former accounting student, she abandoned community college in Maryland in 1996 to buy the Pennsylvania shop where she had bought her wedding gown only a year earlier.
Knowing she wanted to own a business in the future anyway, Kim called the decision to invest an easy one. The shop has since thrived in Pennsylvania, allowing the Kims the freedom to open a second store on the Delaware coast — where they plan to relocate soon.
What she called “spontaneity” — and a laid-back management attitude that allows for small talk, personal connection and even for men to be allowed inside the store while a soon-to-be bride picks out a gown, she said — has proved successful for the family thus far.
“I thought that sounded like fun…so we bought it,” Kim said of her first business venture more than a decade ago. “I’m a very spontaneous person.”