Diana Zeisky bought Diamonds and Lace on a handshake agreement, drove home and told her husband they needed a loan.
A retired event planner, Zeisky was a stay-at-home mom for three years before buying the business.
“I tried being a stay-at-home mom, and I loved staying at home with my kids, but I personally needed a little bit more for myself,” she said. “I thought, ‘It’s a bridal store, so how hard can it be?’ I had no experience whatsoever. It’s an industry I’ve been in since I was 19, so I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with it.”
She operated the store in Lemont for six years and then moved to North Atherton Street in 2014.
“We outgrew our 1,800-square-foot space,” Zeisky said. “We also expanded into formal wear and prom, so we quickly ate up the space and looked for something bigger. We didn’t anticipate this 5,000-square-foot space, but it’s been great for us.”
Q: You opened at a time when the economy was weak. How did you adapt to keep the business growing?
A: I didn’t know it would happen. I think like a lot of people I was clueless, and it completely crashed when I was opening the store. I remember thinking, ‘OK, I might be dead in the water.’ And, honestly, we had no budget for employees. I couldn’t afford day care, so back then my kids came to work with me every day. Customers would come in, and my babies would be playing, sleepy or rowdy and I’d say, ‘I’m so sorry, please excuse them.’ I think if you’re honest with people, they’ll understand. I knew all along if you own a bridal store you won’t be a millionaire, but I still felt I could it work even though the market crashed right when we started.
Q: Did you have to adapt your ideas for the store when the economy tanked?
A: When the economy was in a lot of turmoil people told me no one would ever spend a lot of money on dresses. Somehow, I don’t know, we were upfront with people and it worked out. A lot of people came in on a tight budget, so we tried to see if we could work with them ... Maybe if I were in a metropolitan area, or had higher expenses or my demographic was different, maybe I would have failed, but I didn’t.
Q: How have you personalized your store?
A: Well, I’m not originally from here. I didn’t move here until I was 28 years old and got married. I realized when I opened the store in Lemont there weren’t many trendy-looking boutiques in State College. The atmosphere, environment and landscape of the store in Lemont was completely different than it is here. It was very bling — black and white and red. I wanted something very funky. I said I wanted to be different, and I did the same thing with this store. When I came here my perspective had changed, and I wanted it to be very soft and romantic, just very soothing. I didn’t see something, again, like this in State College. So, I brought what I liked and my tastes here. You also have to have a good product, obviously, but you’re also selling yourself. The most important thing in business is your ability to make people around you comfortable.
Q: A lot of people get engaged around the holidays and there will be plenty more with Valentine’s Day nearing. Is this a pretty busy time of year?
A: It is, and surprisingly a little bit more than I expected right now. I don’t if it’s the new location, or maybe a lot more women are getting married. We usually work one year out, but we are still servicing and selling gowns for 2016, which we were doing a lot in 2015.
Q: Should women come into a bridal shop knowing exactly what they want, having no clue or somewhere in the middle?
A: Most women have an idea of what they think they want. They’ll come in with a phone or iPad and something pinned on Pinterest. They’ll say they know what they’re looking for, but we’ll always ask if they’ve actually tried it on. When I look at someone when they walk through the door I’m already thinking about the best dresses I can put them in ... I might know before you try it on if it will work for you, but we will absolutely say you should try on what you like. A visual is the best way, even if you love the dress and I know it won’t really work for you, to see why it won’t work. Usually when they see that, they put the ball in our court. With that freedom we pull what will look really nice on you.
Q: What are some current trends in the industry?
A: We do have select pieces for the current trends. Some are super low backs. Some are the boho look. Some of them are the romantic, full, lacy ballgown look. Right now, technically what’s trending is sexy, sleek low backs. But when you take a trend you can’t force the masses into a trend. A trend doesn’t equate to style. Style is what you make of it. Style is what represents you. If I put someone in something that’s very classic, it might not be trending on the runway but what’s not trending could be the perfect fit for someone. Trends come and go, but style remains.