Editor’s note: Our series Enterprising Spirit documents how businesses and workers are managing the economy’s slow return to life after its sudden shutdown in March – and adapting to new challenges ahead.
For Nina Nichols, owner of Nina Cherie Couture, the shutdown’s biggest effect on her business has been emotional: brides’ stress levels are at an all-time high as they deal with postponing weddings.
Nichols has been hearing from her brides that their dresses are “the one thing that actually went right.”
Nina Cherie Couture, located in Spokane Valley at 9212 E. Montgomery Ave., No. 201, offers brides the chance to wear a gown made completely from scratch.
“I had a lot of feedback that that was actually the highlight for them and that the dress ended up fitting, and they were happy with it, and that they were so grateful to look beautiful in their gown, so that kind of made their day,” Nichols said.
Even though brides couldn’t go into her shop, she was still able to do virtual sittings and curbside pickup. Only two brides needed slight alterations, and they were able to take pictures and drop the dresses off so she could make the adjustments.
Jaime Johnson, Jaime Johnson Events owner, has been in the wedding industry for more than 20 years, and when she got married in October 2018, she went to Nichols for her dress.
She knew she didn’t want anything that reminded her of any past weddings. Though she thinks all of her brides looked beautiful, she wanted a dress that was completely her own.
“I just wanted something that was unique to me and my body type, and so I reached out to Nina,” Johnson said. “I trusted her, I wanted her to read me and tell me what she thought that I should have. So she’s the one who designed my dress, with very little input from myself, and presented me with the design, and it was more than I could have ever dreamed of.”
Though she did have a few new brides contact the store with interest during the shutdown, Nichols put off taking new clients until the store could reopen because she needed to take measurements. In addition to making gowns by hand, Nichols also offers alterations for pre-made dresses.
Nichols was understanding of brides who needed to pause the process because of financial considerations. She allowed them to pick their dresses up, and told them they could return them and continue when money was stable.
A lot of customers come to Nichols from referrals from others in the wedding business: wedding planners, makeup artists, photographers, florists and more.
Her dresses have been featured in Brides magazine.
“It was a past custom bride that had her wedding featured,” Nichols said. “It was nice, but I don’t know if it changed anything. But it did draw attention, and I did get a couple referrals from it. I mean, it’s nice to be featured.”
Nichols said she’s heard from some brides that a few vendors have been behaving badly.
“I feel like there’s some vendors in particular that just want to hold on to the deposits and stay firm on their rules and dates and not really be flexible,” Nichols said.
“That’s hurtful to the bride and the industry. I want to send the message that we should all work together.”