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By: Jennifer Gregory

When Nadica Ristivojevich opened her high-end bridal shop, Maria’s Bridal Couture, in 2008 she had no idea a recession was right around the corner. Nor did she know that her city, Detroit, would be one of the most severely affected areas. But even with the odds against her, the store’s revenue doubled from the first year to the second, and business continues to grow today.

Customers often drive several hours to the store because of Ristivojevich’s personal attention and the exclusive designers the store carries. Ristivojevich has spent 20 years working in the bridal industry at another shop with her mother and aunt, but always longed to open her own store. “My passion was always to do the higher price point. I have a luxurious taste and have always drawn to the higher quality fabrics,” Ristivojevich says. So when she saw space available at the Orchard Mall in West Bloomfield, she decided that now was the time to take a chance. Because the mall built out the space for her needs, it reduced the amount of money she had to put up front to get her doors opened.

Focusing on Just the Bride

Ristivojevich quickly realized that she couldn’t compete with big box stores like David’s Bridal and decided not to carry evening gowns, mother’s dresses and bridesmaid dresses. “You can’t do a little bit of everything. When customers come into the store, they are focusing on the bride. So we have made our main focus the bride,” Ristivojevich says. This has reduced inventory costs and also increased the level of customer service. The staff can also concentrate training efforts on bridal wear instead of multiple products, which increases the knowledge level of associates.

Ristivojevich’s efforts have paid off and have attracted the attention of leaders in the wedding industry. When exclusive designer Vera Wang was looking for a store in the area to carry her dresses, the designer’s representatives decided that Maria’s Bridal Couture would be a perfect fit and the shop is currently the only store in Michigan to carry Vera Wang.

Every Bride Is Important

When customers visit the store, they are greeted with a glass of champagne and offered hors d’oeuvres to set the mood. Ristivojevich makes a point of meeting every bride and gives the women her honest opinion on the dresses. She will often meet brides and their family at the shop after hours if they can’t make during business hours. Ristivojevich even opened the store at 9:30 p.m. one night for a bride who was flying in from New York City.

“A wedding dress is a special, one-time purchase. So it needs to be a personable experience,” Ristivojevich says. “My goal is to never have an unhappy bride. There is not a problem that you cannot work out. I strongly believe that.”

Creative Thinking

Instead of resting on her success, Ristivojevich credits her continued growth on her focused effort to continue to learn and try new things each day. “Right now I have a black Vera Wang T-shirt in the window and people are stopping to notice it,” Ristivojevich says. In February, she glued roses petals to a mannequin in the shape of a wedding dress and even put a sign next to it that the dress was available in white and ivory as a joke. “Every day should be a learning day. Do something different from what you did yesterday,” she adds.

But more important than the top-notch customer service, innovative marketing techniques and exclusive designers the store carries, the shop’s success is due largely in to the passion and love that Ristivojevich has for her store. “I can’t see myself doing anything else. It has been 20 years and I still get goosebumps when the bride finds her perfect wedding dress and her and mother begin crying,” Ristivojevich says.

Jennifer Gregory is a journalist with over 17 years professional writing experience. Jennifer blogs via Contently.com.