Gina’s Bridal Boutique is Married to Michigan
The quiet town of Milford, Michigan and her 6,200 residents pride themselves in their preservation of small, locally-owned businesses. Every week, hundreds of Michiganders from busier surrounding areas come to Milford’s downtown district to eat, shop and relax.
However, since 2005, Milford has attracted a new type of customer – brides to be. Founded in August 2005, Gina’s Bridal Boutique has supplied thousands of future brides with the wedding dress of their dreams.
“It started with a statement made by myself saying ‘strange there aren’t any bridal shops out here on the west side,'” said Co-owner Judi Licavoli. “And then a few months later, we found a building to rent, and the rest is history.”
Before Gina’s, the nearest bridal boutique to Milford was roughly 20 miles to east or north. The boutique’s name inspiration comes from Judi and Anthony Licavoli’s daughter, Gina.
Gina, who was living out of state around the time, wanted to come home to Milford, thus it was the perfect opportunity for the Licavoli family to start the business. With all hands on deck, the family established Gina’s Bridal Boutique.
“We sell approximately 400 gowns a year, and for a store our size, that isn’t too bad,” she said. “Along with the bridal gowns though are the maids and mother’s.”
Large chains, such as David’s Bridal, can sell few hundred gowns a quarter.
“This brings another element to our business,” she said. “Many of the maids come back when they are engaged, so the process starts all over again for someone new.”
With sales of around 400 dresses annually, some may wonder how the business has stayed afloat and grown for the past 15 years. Fortunately, with every bride to be comes a groom. Enter Anthony Licavoli, Gina’s men’s formal wear expert and co-owner, the handler of tuxedo, suit and accessories sales, plus rentals.
“Prom (is) usually in late April and May, so those girls and guys start coming to buy in March,” he said. “Our tuxedo business is very busy during prom season, and one of the challenges that comes with it can be matching the boys’ tuxedo accents with their date’s dresses.”
Many of these shades are created by other companies, so matching them perfectly can be tricky.
“We have boys coming from all over to rent for their big night out,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite times of the year.”
With little market competition close to Milford, Gina’s provides tuxedos for most of the high school boys in neighboring districts. Wednesday and Thursday are the busiest days to be fitted for tuxedos. Saturdays are Gina’s busiest days.
“Saturday is always our busiest day for appointments,” Judi said. “We usually have three to four customers an hour. On other days between customers, we have packages delivered containing gowns, veils, headpieces etc. All these items need to be put in the system and gowns need to be steamed.”
There isn’t much down time for the boutique that is closed on Sundays and Mondays. The store owners must keep up with current bridal trends.
More, now than ever, there has been a desire for unique and individualistic weddings. This can be accomplished through wearing a dress with modern styles, adding nonwhite colors, accessories and more.
“The trends seem to differ every time we go to our market to buy,” Judi said. “As with trends, some girls look specifically for those gowns, while others want the traditional gown.
“This past market for the spring of 2020, we saw gowns lined in light colors such as grey, pale, blue and very light pink. There were also gowns with black lace … There are those girls that want something very different, but the majority still buy traditional.”
In the future, Judi and Anthony plan to give full control of the business to their daughter Gina. Judi said her favorite part of owning the store has been “seeing the faces of so many people that come through our door.”
“When a bride cries with happy tears or a grandma smiles from ear to ear, it makes our business worth it,” she said.
Fifteen years of making dreams come true has kept Gina’s going. It has been a local favorite and an oasis for newlyweds looking to make their big day perfect.
“Running a small business can take a toll on you,” Judi said. “With the internet and so much competition, it takes a lot to keep things going. We have a terrific group that works at our store. They make Gina’s the success that it is.”