Attention, military and first-responder brides: The gown-giveaway nonprofit Brides Across America recently opened its first-ever charity shop in Andover. Wedding dresses are completely free of charge for service members, and non-military brides can also score designer dresses for as little as $99. All proceeds from the shop, which opened in July, go back to the organization. “Anybody who’s a first responder or a military bride can come in and get a gown, and even if you don’t qualify, the discounts are amazing,” says founder and CEO Heidi Janson. “We have all kinds of designers.”
The shop marks a new kind of venture for the Andover-based nonprofit, which has donated more than 22,000 wedding gowns at nationwide giveaway events since it was founded in 2008. Its goal is to help more brides find the dress of their dreams while raising funds to cover the organization’s operational costs, from shipping to storage for the 3,000 gowns currently in stock.
As for the shopping experience, Janson says she wants it to mirror what patrons would find at a typical bridal salon, sans price tags. The store’s dresses range from gently worn to brand new, and each is hand-screened before employees put it out on the floor. The organization also only accepts gowns that are five years old or younger. “We want things to be fresh and current, and a 25-year-old dress is very challenging to give away,” Janson explains. That means the shop’s personal stylists won’t be pulling puffy-sleeved ’80s-era gowns, but on-trend dresses by Carolina Herrera, Maggie Sottero, BHLDN, Lazaro, Hayley Paige and more, all averaging around $400 to $500, Janson says. The store also sells veils, jewelry, and other accessories to complete each customer’s look.
For those seeking another way to shop, the organization will also be launching an online store later this year. “That’s been in the works for over a year now, and it’s really for those out in the nation who can’t go to an event but need help,” Janson says. Plus, for East Coast brides living farther outside the Boston area, Janson hints that the nonprofit has plans for a second brick-and-mortar store. “We have another location in mind, but we’ll probably sit tight here until at least January or February,” she says. Until then, the organization’s next gown-giveaway event, both nationwide and at the Andover shop by appointment only, will take place on November 8.
342 N Main St., Andover, 877-650-3309, bridesacrossamerica.com.
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