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BRIDAL SHOPS VOW TO HELP REPLACE RUINED GOWNS

Bridal shop owners from across Western New York banded together Friday, vowing to help brides-to-be whose wedding gowns were destroyed in a Blasdell blaze.

About 500 wedding dresses, many custom-tailored, were destroyed in the three-alarm $300,000 fire early Friday at It's Your Day bridal shop. But area dress merchants said thousands more are available at their shops.

"A bride could walk in here today, buy a gown off the rack, get it altered, and she could be married on Saturday," said Denise Cullinan, owner of Bridals By D on Main Street, Williamsville.

In addition, some shops such as David's Bridal in the Town of Tonawanda are offering discounts, and some former brides are donating their gowns.

Officials at It's Your Day said they are hopeful that insurance would cover the extra costs customers will face in scrambling to purchase replacement gowns for upcoming weddings, including two scheduled for today.

"The insurance adjusters have been out to the shop, and brides who have to buy dresses for weddings coming up soon should be able to submit the bills to the insurance company," said Richard Smith, a Depew wedding photographer associated with It's Your Day.

Most of the brides-to-be who have contacted Smith have been understanding, but not everyone.

"Out of the 50 or 60 brides that have called, we've had three or four crybabies who say they don't have any money to buy another dress," said Smith, owner of Sloan Photo Studio. "I've told those girls that there are places where they can rent wedding gowns."

By Tuesday, Smith said, he expects that Joyce Egan, the shop's owner, will have enough information to issue a public statement on how her customers will be assisted.

"It's been incredible the support we're getting," Smith added. "We've had calls from bridal shops all over
Western New York offering to help us out."

That's good news for Tracy Lynn Chatwood, 21, a Town of Boston resident whose $500 wedding dress is on order with It's Your Day.

She considers herself one of the lucky ones because her gown had not yet come in from the manufacturer.

Nevertheless, she will not rest easy until she is assured her order will be filled, but she said she is even more worried about other women whose gowns were ruined in the blaze.

She said a lot of deliberation goes into selecting a wedding dress.

"I've been to the shop 10 times before I put down a deposit of $250 and ordered the dress two weeks ago," she said.

A member of the Boston Volunteer Fire Company, Miss Chatwood learned about the fire by listening to her bedside scanner just before she fell asleep shortly after 1 a.m. Friday.

"I had a hard time sleeping, but I wasn't positive it was the shop that was on fire until later in the morning when I saw it on television," she said.

Her fiance, Dennis Emerling, also is a Boston volunteer firefighter. The two met in the fire hall about 1 1/2 years ago, and it was love at first sight.

"It's just been great. We met rolling fire hoses up after a drill," the young woman said, putting aside her worries about the bridal shop in ashes.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

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