Brides ’n Maidens closes doors after 46 years

The bridal shop is unloading its inventory and will be closed permanently after July 1

VISALIA – The ongoing pandemic has caused many long-time businesses around the country to permanently close up shop. As of July 1, popular bridal shop Brides ’n Maidens will be ending their 46-year tenure in Downtown Visalia.

The shop’s owner Alvin Saude is 85 years old. He has dedicated over half of his life to helping equip the community with their dream dresses for quinceañeras, proms, and weddings. As a health precaution due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 he is unable to come in contact with too many people. This led him to sell the shop to an interested buyer, who backed out of the deal last Monday. As a result, Saude’s daughters Tiffini Ball and Summer Saude-Wyban decided it was time to close the shop’s doors.

“[The pandemic] pushed him to retirement, he didn’t want to close. He probably would have owned it until the day he died,” Tiffini Ball said.

Ball is a kindergarten teacher at Mission Valley Elementary School in Tulare. She has been helping her father run the store since her mother, Sharon Saude, lost a 10-year battle with cancer. She handles the accounting side of the business which is what her mother handled. Her father would handle the orders and was very engaging with customers.

“My dad had an eye for it. He could just tell a girl ‘this is the dress you’re going to love,’ and they would end up trying it on and buying it,” Ball said.

The state of the economy over the last few months was an added blow to an already struggling bridal industry. According to Ball, people aren’t as inclined to spend as much money on a wedding due to a limited budget. It has also been increasingly difficult for their small business to compete with large competitors such as David’s Bridal who allow customers to shop online with wholesale pricing.

“In the 1980s and 1990s, we would do 25 weddings a weekend. Back then it didn’t matter the cost, you had 500-600 people at your wedding and it was huge,” Ball said. “Now people are doing smaller, less formal, and more intimate weddings [to save money]. Luckily with us shutting down we’ve helped a lot of brides that have $1200 dresses who are paying only $600.”

Ball decided to post about the shop’s closing on Facebook and she deems the responses have been phenomenal. Since Brides ’n Maidens has been a community staple for over four and a half decades, they have serviced three generations of families: a grandparent, their kids, and now their grandkids.

“At night I go through Facebook and I have all of these people telling me stories about how they bought their prom dress here and how my dad helped them picked out their dress.”

Alvin Saude opened Brides ’n Maidens in February 1974 after returning home from the Korean War. Before moving to their current location, he started out across the street at Claudia’s Closet current location. His wife, Sharon, was a teacher before leaving that job to help run the shop. As Tiffini grew older, she became more active in the store. Throughout her years as a student at Redwood High School, she would walk over to the shop after school and help out until it closed at 6 p.m., and also on Saturdays making $3.75 an hour.

After the shop’s last day on July 1, Ball is looking forward to being a more active parent, coach’s wife, and teacher. All wedding gowns at Brides ’n Maidens are currently 60% off, bridesmaid dresses are $50, prom dresses are $100.

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