Many little girls dream of weddings and “ooh and aah” at all the pretty princess dresses. For Denice Schoelerman, she even aspired to own her own bridal shop. At age eight, she fell in love with sewing and eventually worked her way through college by providing alteration services at Classic Bride in Ames. While many years have passed since those college days, her childhood dream is coming to full fruition when Grand Bridal officially opens its doors this spring at the corner of 4th and Grand in Spencer.

“When my college friends heard the news, they were like this is what you’ve always wanted to do! You love weddings!” Schoelerman said. “I’m very excited to open a full-service bridal store in Spencer and provide in-house alternations for our region.”

Schoelerman made the store’s announcement public during a Facebook Live video at the beginning of December. Since the news was released, the 7,100 square foot space in the old 1931 White Drug Building has undergone a major transformation to make room for a bridal suite, offices, dressing rooms, and specialized areas for brides, maids of honor, flower girls, and the mother of the bride. In Spring 2022, Schoelerman will add a prom section.

A Dream Come True
An accomplished seamstress, Schoelerman began sewing lessons when she was eight-years-old. A woman in her community would provide these lessons to children every summer, and Schoelerman found she had a knack with a needle and thread. By the time she was a junior in high school, she had made her own dirndl skirt and then prom dress.

“At that time, the trend was to have lots and lots of buttons in the back,” she said with a laugh.

During Schoelerman’s senior year, she tailored a wool coat and came in second place in the "Make It Yourself with Wool" Contest and won a Bernina Sewing Machine. From there, she began to sew bridesmaid dresses for friends and gained valuable experience working at the bridal shop throughout college.

“I learned I really loved the fine details of bridal gowns and sewing with the fine fabrics, detailed handiwork, and gorgeous beading,” she added. “It is such a joy to watch a bolt of fabric turn into a finished project.”

Schoelerman designed gowns for many of her friends, and they would often spend parts of the bachelorette party making alternations for the special occasion the following day.

While sewing has always been a major passion for Schoelerman, she graduated from Iowa State University in Animal Science and worked for five years at Merck in human pharmaceuticals. During this time, Denice married her best friend Jim. “I stepped out of the working world to take time for family, and six years ago, I helped my husband launch his own veterinarian consulting business,” she said.

Then two years ago, Schoelerman rediscovered her love for sewing fine fabrics. In 2018, the couple’s middle school daughter Adalyn was performing Clara in the Nutcracker with American Midwest Ballet Company. Because of winter weather, the support staff for the troupe was unable able to travel to Spirit Lake from Omaha. Schoelerman volunteered to help fix several costumes in need of special care.

“When sewing that night, I quickly realized how much I enjoyed the work,” she said. “I was grateful I could help the company and give the dancers’ the comfort and confidence they needed to perform in their costumes. But it got me thinking, I need to still use this skill.”

Grand Bridal on 4th and Grand
On March 1, Schoelerman’s dream will officially come true. Even now, onlookers can enjoy beautiful bridal gowns in the large front window displays. Providing a full-service bridal shop, Schoelerman currently has plans to carry five wedding designers, including Eddy K Bridal Gowns, Madi Lane, and Colby John Bridal Couture.

“Gowns have been ordered and they’ve been coming weekly since October,” she shared. “Kari Roskens of Kari’s Clothing has been an amazing mentor and friend through this process, and we’ve really enjoyed picking out gowns for future brides.”

Schoelerman is especially excited for the addition of Colby John’s customizable designer dresses. In October, Roskens and Schoelerman spent two hours with him at his shop in Minneapolis.

“He was aspiring to work with and wants to have a trunk show at Grand Bridal in the future,” she said.

Colby John’s designer dresses are created for customization, whether changes are made with fabrics, sleeves, sizes or necklines.

“The dress is completely customized to the bride, which when the final gown arrives in store, there shouldn’t be a lot of alterations – the dress is completely made for you,” Schoelerman shared.

Besides finding the perfect gown, future brides will have access to jewelry, belts, veils, shoes, and undergarments. “We want to have everything you need to walk down the aisle from head to toe,” she said.

A Special Place for Brides
In Grand Bridal’s design, she is including a special bridal suite to create an exceptional atmosphere for the bride to try on dresses. By appointment only, brides will have the opportunity to try on the gowns within a private setting. There will be room for three to four guests, and the environment will be relaxing and fun and will include special favors and refreshments.

“We want to create an atmosphere that is perfect for finding your dream dress for your dream day,” she said.

Grand Bridal will have an interactive website that will allow brides to put together a wish list prior to coming through the door. This allows Schoelerman to be prepared when an appointment is made, and she can have the appropriate dresses pulled for the appointment. All designer lines and seasons will be continually updated on the site.

“If we don’t have something and have enough time, we can always get a loner dress in the appropriate size,” she explained.

Once that dress is found, any alternations will be done in-house by Schoelerman. Depending on the schedule, she may be wiling to include outside alternations as well.

“Most importantly, the dress won’t leave the store, and whether you need multiple fittings or just one, I will be doing all of the fine work,

so you feel confident for your special day,”

she explained. “We want you walking out with a good fit.”

Schoelerman has two accomplished daughters who will be helping her at the shop, whether it’s providing customer service, sewing needs, or steaming dresses. “Adalyn is 16 now and will be a really great help to me,” she added. “I want to continue to teach her these skills and maybe it’s something she wants to pursue in college. She does have visions of playing a major role in the store as she gets older.”

Most of all, Schoelerman is excited to open a bridal store in downtown Spencer, sharing her love of weddings and sewing to the Iowa Great Lakes region – turning a childhood dream into reality!

For more information, visit www.grandbridalspencer.com or call 712-580-GOWN (4596). Stay tuned for Grand Bridal’s grand opening at the beginning of March.