PORT HENRY - The Fashion Corner has been selling gowns, dresses and more for a quarter century. The secret to its success?
"It's supposed to be fun when you're shopping for a special dress," said Natalie Clark, Fashion Corner owner. "You're preparing for an important event, it should be enjoyable. We try to make it that way."
Apparently Clark and her associates Jeanne Suddard and Candy Baker succeed.
"The girls always say 'Thank you for letting us have fun'," Clark said.
The Fashion Corner is marking its 25th anniversary in 2011.
Ida and Tom Ruch opened the boutique Nov. 26, 1985. Clark started work there the following April and Suddard a few months later. When the Ruchs moved in 1992, Clark bought the store.
"I enjoyed working here," Clark recalled of her decision to buy the business. "When Ida and Tom wanted to sell it made sense to buy it. I still enjoy coming to work every day."
While Fashion Corner customers are allowed - even urged - to have fun, there is more to the store's success.
"We have a good reputation, word of mouth advertising is very good for us," Clark said. "We have good customer service; we keep our prices very competitive; we keep up with current styles."
While its located ina small town, the Fashion Corner is big-time in the dress world. With an inventory of more than 500 prom gowns, more than 200 wedding dresses, more than 400 mother's dresses, bride's maid and flower girl dresses, tuxedos for men and more, the Fashion Corner attracts business from miles away.
"People drive three hours to shop here," Clark said. "We sell dresses to people from Quebec, Potsdam, Albany, St. Johnsbury, Vt., all over. We have a very large selection, one of the largest."
In 2010 the Fashion Corner sold 292 prom dresses and 100 wedding dresses.
The Port Henry store is now serving second and third generation customers.
"I sold a prom dress last week to a girl," Suddard said. "I sold her mother a prom dress years ago."
Customers have changed in the last 25 years, Clark and Suddard agree.
"People are different, they expect more," Clark said. "Most know, or think they know, exactly what they want when they walk through the door. They've been on-line and seen all the styles."
But while people expect more, they're still a joy to service, Clark said.
"In the 25 years we've had maybe two 'bride-zillas'," she said. "Most people are fantastic."
Spring is busy at the Fashion Corner because of proms and weddings. To accommodate customers the shop is now open on Sundays through May.
Fashion Corner customers can be sure they'll see the latest styles at the Port Henry store. Clark makes regular trips to fashion shows in New York and reads fashion magazines to keep up with the latest trends. She also regularly asks her customers, particular teen-age girls, what they like.
Located at 4325 Main St. in Port Henry, the Fashion Corner is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It can be reached at 546-7499 and can be found on Facebook.
The past year has been difficult for the Fashion Corner because of the loss of the Lake Champlain Bridge. Clark estimates more than half her business came from Vermont before the bridge was demolished. She's hopeful that business returns when a new bridge opens this fall.
"It's been a tough year, but we're still kickin'," Suddard said.
What does the future hold for the Fashion Corner?
"I don't know about the future, but I'll stay as long as I enjoy it and feel good," said Clark, age 70. "What else would I do? I'd probably just sit at home."