Trish Burkholder always knew she wanted to own a bridal store.
"As a little girl I was fascinated and infatuated by bridal gowns and accessories and everything that went into it," said the King of Prussia native. "I remember watching the wedding of Tricia Nixon in the Rose Garden and I thought it was the most romantic event."
Today, Trish and husband Ed own two bridal stores -- The Country Bride and Gent in Bensalem and the Lansdale area. Their sales volume -- in helping couples with their weddings and proms -- puts them in the top 10 percent of independent bridal stores in the country.
Trish earned a degree in marketing and business, with an emphasis in fashion merchandising, from the University of Dayton. She started her retail career as a buyer of better dresses for Strawbridges. After about two years she moved on to a position as a buyer for Federated Department Stores, which owns several chains including Bloomingdales.
In 1986 she opened The Country Bride in the Showcase Plaza on Street Road. Within six to nine months she knew she had a success on her hands.
"It's a great location. With Street Road we get a lot of traffic and we pull a lot from northeast Philly," she said, while adding that tons of advertising also helped get the business the initial attention it needed.
Four years later she expanded into the next storefront, doubling the size of the store to about 3,100 square feet and allowing space for ten dressing rooms.
That same year she and Ed were getting married, so it was just natural for Ed to join the business. Thus, the Gent part of the business was born, with tuxes and men's accessories added to the mix.
In 1996 they opened their second store in the Lansdale area.
"We carry about 600 wedding gowns in stock from the top designers," she said.
The couple has 24 employees, eight of whom are full time and none of whom work on commission.
"If they think you look better in the $600 dress they're not going to push you into a $1,200 dress," said Trish.
"Our feeling is that you can look like a million dollars but don't have to spend it."