Here's how we created our one stop wedding shop with limited budget, help, and time: but tonnes of energy, drive, and passion!
Our unit is in Broadstone Mill in Stockport, Greater Manchester. The Mill was once used for spinning cotton which feels very fitting. In fact at one time is was apparently the largest cotton mill in the world.
Planning for the shop started in earnest early August 2020 and work started on transforming the space a few weeks later.
Ever since starting Frock Goddess online in 2019 I’ve had plans to open a studio & shop combined. I knew that I didn't want to run the traditional type of bridal shop with nothing but rows upon rows of expensive, unethical, and ‘samey’ dresses. My plan has always been to have my studio on site and sell only ethical dresses designed for the bride who wants something a little different.
Also I’ve always found it odd that no shops seemed to exist where you can pick up other wedding related items such as accessories, cards, favours, and gifts as well as dresses.
And then it occurred to me that, as my bridal wear is sustainable and ethical, so should all of the other items in the shop. As far as I knew this was the first shop of it's type - a one stop sustainable and ethical wedding shop!
So we had two major jobs to do:
1) transform the space; and
2) fill it with lovely, unique sustainable and ethical things.
The first job would be helped hugely by the fact that my husband is a theatre designer – very handy! Also, the space had such a lot of potential. I fell in love with it as soon as we saw it. It had previously been used as a hairdressers so there was a lot to rip out and change but we had a vision and we knew that it would be beautiful!
This is what it looked like before...
We had a very tight budget. Well in fact I told my husband that the budget was nil but that we were allowed to go over budget by only a certain amount! His theatre design skills came in very handy here as he is genius at creating something beautiful with little money.
We set to work initially with lots of white paint. Already it was starting to look better
You can see on the left here the mezzanine where my studio space will be.
Then we were ready to get the pretty stuff done.
We had a problem once we’d ripped out a big structure and plinth that were in the way of access to the fitting room. There was now a gap in the floor boards and we couldn’t find any matching boards to fill it. We brainstormed what to do with the space over gin one evening. The ideas started to get more outlandish as we started to think of turning the space into an art installation. Eventually we settled on the idea of painting a pond! Again my husband’s artistic talents were invaluable here.
Here is a picture of the original 'structure' we had to remove; the space it left; and our pond! It's not what you would expect to see in a bridal shop but we love it!
For the first week or so my husband concentrated on the shop décor while I continued with sourcing stock. Some of it would be handmade by us; and others sourced from other ethical and sustainable suppliers. This process has been such a pleasure, although it did take up a lot more time and effort than I had anticipated because of the strict criteria I had in terms of what we could stock.
We’ve discovered loads of incredible businesses and have had such a huge amount of support. So far we've managed to get hold of all sorts of amazing sustainable and ethical wedding related items such as: hair pieces handmade from vintage jewellery from Vintage Adornments; planners/note books handmade from re-cycled materials from Blue Stiggy; plantable greetings cards which grow into wild flowers after use; handmade garters made from vintage/reclaimed lace; handmade wedding invites; wedding favours made up of 'magic dust' (wild flower seeds); original artwork; handmade bridal face coverings..... The list goes on!
I also wanted to set up a Directory of ethical and sustainable wedding suppliers. This is online and on a physical notice board in the shop. Again, I’m blown away by the fabulousness of some of these businesses. The Directory is still a work in progress as I write this; and there are many more people getting on board; but take a look here at some of the amazing businesses on our Directory so far.
The shop opening date was Saturday 12 September. The final week before opening was very intense! We had planned our time well but there was still SO much to do before open day. We had to get all of the stock into the shop (which takes a lot longer than you might imagine!) and adding the final magic touches. Every aspect of the space down to the smallest detail was carefully thought through and discussed at length with my husband. And there were a couple of frenzied shopping trips during this week for bits and bobs.
We decided that there had to be cake and prosecco on opening day and even such a small thing like that added to the list of things to do! Order the cakes from a local supplier; arrange glass hire; dig out a cake stand; make sure we had plenty of prosecco...!
A few people commented on how stressful it must have been and that my husband and I must have argued a lot in those last few weeks. Yes it was absolutely manic and incredibly hard work but we absolutely loved it and we worked well as a team. We were fuelled for that last week by takeaways, gin, and adrenaline!
We couldn’t have the opening do we would have liked because of lock down restrictions. So just asked friends and neighbours to drop in at some point during the day. It was an incredible day and the response we got was overwhelming.
So now we’ve been open for a week and this is where the hard work really begins. Being a new bridal shop in the midst of a pandemic is not the best of timing but we’ll be here and ready whenever couples are.
Here's the final results....