Beaded, lace, chiffon, boho, classic, silk, “We have something for everyone,” says Tanya Rutner Hartman, owner of Gilded Social: The Fancy Occasion Shop.
Hundreds of bridesmaid dresses line the racks at the new Downtown boutique at 65 E. Gay St. The owner – and the dresses – have seen a whirlwind few months as Hartman purchased the business formerly known as La Jeune Mariee Maids & Social Occasions from Lindsay Fork who outfits brides through her other retail storefronts, La Jeune Mariee Bridal Collection and LUXEredux Bridal.
Hartman says the stars aligned to make her the owner of a retail storefront focused on special occasions. Her background is in political fundraising and fundraising for non-profits, a career that entails many, many events. After 15 years in the industry, she got to a place where she was ready to do something totally different.
Weddings had been a “hobby from a far.” Hartman loved them. She was always the first to RSVP, went to everything and would do everything.
“I had always kind of thought about, well how would I break into this industry,” she says.
With her experience in event planning, the natural inclination was a transition to wedding planning. But catering to someone else’s traditions and tastes, “Planning somebody else’s wedding is a lot different than planning just an event or planning your own wedding,” Hartman says. “If that was how I was going to break into doing wedding stuff, that wasn’t how I wanted to do it.”
She’d know her “in” to the industry when she saw it. And when the opportunity came to purchase La Jeune Mariee, “That’s what this ended up being,” Hartman says.
She bought her own wedding dress from La Jeune Mariee Bridal Collection in 2016 and had stayed in touch with members of the staff since. After expressing her desire to make a change to one of the staff members, she suggested Fork, who had already been contemplating selling the bridesmaid store, speak with Hartman.
Balancing La Jeune Mariee Bridal Collection, three locations of LUXEredux Bridal and family life with her husband and three children, “I had to let something go,” Fork says.
Hartman and Fork met at an event in October where Fork expressed a near immediate interest in discussing the sale of the store.
“Tanya was a former bride of mine at La Jeune Mariee,” Fork says. “I knew her ability to work with clients in the designer bridal arena would be met with success. My vision in selling the store was to see an owner-operator take it to the next level and I believe Tanya has the ability to achieve this goal.
Hartman wasn’t quite ready to say yes to the dress(es), but as the pieces continued to fall into place, Hartman and Fork closed on their deal by December 8.
“I think it was fast because I was ready, she was ready, we were both committed to the timeline,” Hartman says.
Hartman took the helm on January 1, 2018 operating as Gilded Social out of La Jeune Mariee’s previous location in the Short North through January 20. Fork was interested in retaining the space, so Hartman moved the business south into the heart of Downtown.
While most retail normally anchors the ground floor of buildings, Gilded Social’s placement on the second floor is intentional. Hartman says in cities like New York, bridal studios aren’t on the first floor – it’s not really a walk in and browse kind of experience. She wanted to create an urban studio feel where customers have to intentionally come up to the space.
She also loves the fact photo studio Zurie is next door, bridal boutique B Loved is down the street, and there are hotels, venues and restaurants occupying other Gay Street addresses. (She and her husband even went on their first date at Due Amici – right below Gilded Social.)
“You could literally plan and host your wedding on this entire street,” Hartman says.
Gilded Social has the bridesmaid dresses part of that equation covered representing an array of national lines. The boutique is on the higher-end of prices, $200- $350, but aims to create the experience to match.
Appointments are strongly encouraged to get the full Gilded Social experience. While most of the focus is on the bride (and it wouldn’t happen without her), there’s a lot that goes into planning the big day that’s not about her.
“I want to provide a really great experience for all those participating in the wedding that aren’t the bride,” Hartman says. Fresh flowers, bubbly, stylish seating areas – Gilded social brings the bridal salon experience, plus a little fun, to the bridesmaid experience.
That experience extends to other special occasions, and is the impetus for the name change. Gilded Social is not just for bridesmaids but anyone with a fancy occasion – graduations, galas, proms, sorority formals, etc.
A high-end dress wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind for a shop local experience, but Hartman wants consumers to extend the bounds of what that experience might include. While she carries many dresses a big-box retailer like Nordstrom might, “When you shop with me, you are supporting not only a women-owned business, but somebody who just has a dream to be able to just do something on their own.”
Gilded Social is now taking appointments and will host a Grand Opening Celebration on Thursday, March 1 2018. For more information, visit shopgildedsocial.com.
All photos by Susan Post unless noted.