[Editor’s note: From time to time, we decide that a refresh of a past Rural Success Story is needed, because of ownership change, new location, or new offerings. The Bridal Isle in Loomis was first featured in 2009, but with a new look at the store, we felt it was time for a fresh look at the Bridal Isle.]
I want to get married again. Not to a different guy. Not even to the same guy. (love you, Honey!) I just want to get married again, by myself, so I can pick out a gorgeous dress in a gorgeous store, and be told by everyone I look gorgeous. You may be wondering what’s caused this sudden burst of wedding wistfulness. It’s simple. I paid a visit to the Bridal Isle in Loomis, Nebraska.
Walking into the newly remodeled store, I felt like I was entering an exclusive bridal boutique in Paris or New York. Hardwood floors, graceful high ceilings, and elegant display cabinets set a dreamlike tone of romance. Love songs piped gently over the sound system, and a subtle floral scent filled the air. Heaven.
Owner Karla Axtell and one of her bridal consultants, Beth Allmand, greeted me warmly in the entryway. They began my visit with a tour of the store, which included eight breathtaking rooms of designer gowns, bridesmaid and mothers’ dresses, shoes, veils, jewelry, and a separate room just for prom dresses. The sheer volume of inventory left me in awe.
“We have over 400 dresses,” Karla told me. “If a bride can imagine a particular style of gown for herself or has seen one in a magazine that interests her, we’ll have one like it for her to try on … and in her size.” Indeed, the store carries an impressive range of sizes — 2 to 30.
We sat down to chat, and I learned a little bit more of the history of the store. In 1984, founder Marie Thorell started the store in the back room of a florist. With a small inventory and big prayers, Marie launched her little business. She advertised heavily and the brides came. Word soon spread, and the store quickly outgrew its first space and moved two more times to bigger buildings, all within the small rural town of Loomis (population 382).
The current expanded store sits on the main street and draws hundreds of customers each year from across Nebraska, surrounding states, and even overseas. I wondered how such a tiny town in south central Nebraska became a bridal destination for women living in places where there’s no shortage of bridal stores. In talking to Karla and Beth, the answer to that question became very clear: passion.
Karla had worked at the Bridal Isle for 10 years when it came up for sale. When I asked her if it was hard decision to buy the store, she said, “Honestly, I already felt like I owned it. I love the wedding business. I have a heart for brides, for making every single one of them feel special and beautiful. Ideally, I’d like to make Loomis the wedding capital of Nebraska.”
Beth echoed Karla’s sentiments. When I asked if appointments were needed to shop in the store, Beth said walk-in shoppers are always welcome, but ideally they prefer appointments. The simple reason for that is they want to pull out all the stops to make sure the bride and her party feel catered to.
I hated to shatter the fantasy world I was sitting in, but I had to ask the burning question most of us have on our minds when we shop: price. Part of what makes the store so successful is the huge selection of dresses in price ranges that will fit anyone’s budget. From the newest gowns you can special order to discontinued sample gowns you can purchase off the rack, a bride can find her dream dress without having to break the bank.
As a mom of two teenage girls, I just had to take a quick look through the rack of discontinued prom dresses. I nearly fainted. The meticulously stored dresses were stunning, some marked down as low as $20.
In keeping with the way modern businesses run, the store has a website, bridalisle.com, and a Facebook page. Bridal Isle is also a featured retailer on the popular wedding site, theknot.com. I went to the site and read the reviews left by happy brides. Karla meant it when she said she has a heart for this business. Happy bride after happy bride left glowing thanks to Karla and her staff of 12 for helping make their special day a success.
I hated to take my leave of the beautiful store and my gracious hostesses, but the business day was starting, and customers were drifting in. As I pulled away from the store, I left with the absolute conviction that if Karla wants to make Loomis the wedding capital of Nebraska, she’s well on her way!
Who To Contact…
The Bridal Isle
Karla Axtell, owner
315 Commercial St.
Loomis, NE 68958