‘A Narnia of gowns’

Shelby Duggan was just 11 years old when she was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.

But what began as a simple newspaper delivery route of which she could take ownership found a fitting niche as she grew older and became a fan of the popular TLC reality television series, “Say Yes to the Dress.”

From there, Duggan’s aspirations began to take shape.

Vintage Chic Bridal Boutique, which she opened in December 2018 on Central Avenue in Dubuque, has found a steady following in its short life, offering a selection of gowns available off-the-rack (designer gowns available in an assortment of sizes and colors but are less costly) and through Haute Bridal Collection, as well as veils and bridal accessories.

Because Duggan also maintains full-time hours working a temporary position, the shop is open by appointment only. However, that hasn’t stopped her from building the business, making it her mission to go above and beyond to offer a unique experience to those who have said, “Yes.”

“The key to selling bridal gowns is knowing what’s in trend in the area and creating an unforgettable experience for the bride and her party,” Duggan said.

Unlike its name, Vintage Chic remains a relatively new venture, it wasn’t Duggan’s first foray into the bridal world. Prior to opening the shop, she worked part-time at various local bridal boutiques. It was the experience of working one-on-one with brides that ultimately inspired her to open her a location of her own.

“Brides want a private and intimate experience they can share and be comfortable with,” Duggan said.

She has worked hard to hone that task. And although it can be challenging for a new business owner to realize success in their first year, Duggan has received a lot of love from the community through social media and bridal events.

“Shelby is warm, kind and I felt comfortable and cared for my entire appointment,” said Kalli Semler, a bride that worked with Duggan ahead of her big day. “Being the only one in the shop allowed me to feel special and at ease.”

In addition to the dresses Duggan has in stock or available to order, she is able to obtain other styles through bridal shops across the country that are discontinued from major bridal manufacturers.

“I am very selective with off-the-rack dresses,” she said. “A lot of what I try and pick out has unique details that you might not find in a bridal line.”

Duggan also has tried to harness the power of social media in her business model. In addition to that, she also shoots the photos for her shop.

Melanie Bressler, of Steeple Square in Dubuque and a friend and colleague of Duggan’s, described her as a young entrepreneur with passion behind her business aspirations.

Bressler and Duggan also produced a bridal show together last year and have plans to collaborate again in the future.

“Shelby is a hard-working woman, dedicated to every task and bride she works with,” Bressler said. “You can tell how much heart she puts into her work.”

In the future, Duggan hopes to see Vintage Chic continue growing, carrying even more dresses and describing it as a kind of “Narnia of gowns.”

Vanessa Coffee is a freelance writer from the Dubuque area. Megan Gloss contributed to this article.

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