New Grand Forks businesses offer all wedding needs in one buildingKatie Norby and her sister-in-law Sadie Gardner are hoping to give couples in the Grand Forks area an alternative to traveling to Fargo or Minneapolis for wedding needs. The women have opened adjacent shops taking up the long-vacant first floor of the downtown Corporate Center at 402 DeMers Ave., the same site where Gardner’s father ran Norby’s department store until 1985.
By: Jennifer Johnson, Grand Forks Herald
From narrowing the guest list to debating over the venue, even the sanest couple can be driven to the edge with wedding details, or driven away altogether — many women go to Fargo or Minneapolis to get what they need for the big event, said Katie Norby.
She and her sister-in-law Sadie Gardner are hoping to give couples in the Grand Forks area an alternative: a headache-free, one-stop shop for all their wedding needs, from the wedding dress, to the flower arrangements, to the reception space.
The women have opened adjacent shops taking up the long-vacant first floor of the downtown Corporate Center at 402 DeMers Ave., the same site where Gardner’s father ran Norby’s department store until 1985.
Sadie’s Couture Floral & Event Styling offers wedding and event design and consultation.
Tre Chic Bridal & Professional Styling, Katie Norby’s business, is a salon featuring designer cocktail dresses and gowns, rental space and consulting services.
“Basically, someone who has an event just shows up and it’s all taken care of,” Gardner said.
More wedding-related vendors may be coming to the Corporate Center’s second floor. A photographer, an event furniture rental company and a stationary store are interested, according to Gardner’s letter to the Grand Forks Growth Fund Committee, which oversees the city-owned building.
Gardner’s business, like Norby’s, is bathed in white and sets an unmistakable tone. Groups of giant white feathers intended for a vintage 1920s-style wedding sat in the back underneath a shelf of 3½-foot-tall silver vases. Decadent white candle stick holders, with chandelier-like faux crystals dripping down the sides, sat on tables featuring sample table arrangements.
Gardner said she focuses on the details. Her glass and silver vases, for instance, are a minimum of 30 inches tall so guests’ views are not blocked at the table by flower arrangements, she said.
“There’s nobody in the state that offers everything that I offer in one spot — fresh flowers, linens, pulling the whole event together,” she said.
The business concept, she said, builds off of the floral design firm she owned in Minneapolis for three years. Her new business, she said, offers different levels of service that range from just floral design and renting decor elements all the way to full event coordination.
Gardner, 36, said she decided to partner with Norby, 26, because of Norby’s desire to carry upscale designers unavailable here.
On the runway
Tre Chic offers Jovani cocktail dresses (which can cost $350 and up) and wedding gowns ($850 to $4,000).
This fall, the store will add Badgley Mischka and Lazaro, and Sherri Hill for spring prom, said Norby, who has seven years of retail experience.
Finding the right wedding gown can be overwhelming for some brides, and she said they should stop in to talk it through.
“It’s not a two-month process to get a wedding gown,” she said. “It’s really easy to go through 50 bridal magazines and get confused about the fashion of it.”
Tre Chic’s 6,000-square-foot space is large enough to accommodate up to 150 for an event and provides separate viewing areas for prom and bridal customers, complete with a large family seating area, floor to ceiling mirrors and a white runway fit for a fashion show.
Personal consulting, shopping services and “cleanouts,” where Norby assesses a client’s closet, are also offered at the salon.
“I feel like a lot of people have something in their closet they really like, but they don’t know how to wear it,” she said. “It’s a therapy session almost, retail therapy, talking you through this — ‘Why do you like this? What draws you to it? If you really love it, let’s work with this or put it out to pasture.’”
Gardner, who has been involved in 600 weddings, noted bridal fare options in North Dakota are limited.
Her own wedding also shaped some of the decisions on what to offer. A do-it-yourself bride, she found herself making corsages until 1 a.m. the night before her wedding, and creating the centerpieces that morning.
“After doing that, I wanted to be the bride and enjoy the day,” she said. “That’s why I kind of wanted more of a full-service offering.”
But Norby, too, found that her wedding shaped the services her salon offered, such as “not having a one-on-one experience with my family and not being in a large fitting room.”
Entering into a still predominantly male-dominated business, at least in terms of the nationally-known companies, is exciting, both women said. Gardner said she was a flexible employer for women with children, and hopes to do the same here.
“I (was a) woman studies major, so I’m passionate about taking the lead and kind of reframing what it means to be a (female) business owner,” she said. “We are having families, and balancing life and work.”
Gardner is on schedule to complete 50 events this year with her staff of eight part-timers. Both women plan to hire new employees — Norby is currently working solo — and continue to expand their reach in western Minnesota, North Dakota and Canada.
Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1138, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.