By Sherrie Norris
When Donna Cook announced earlier this year that she would be closing her Boone bridal shop at the end of 2018, it signaled an end of an era for the close-knit downtown family of merchants and shoppers, alike, especially future brides in search of their perfect dresses.
The reality became clear recently when Cook and her staff at Did Someone Say Party? completed her storefront window display for the final time, a bittersweet event, indeed. The theme, “Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Boone,” is proving to be the perfect parting message, drawing window shoppers to stop and reflect upon the impressive presentation, which, like all of her exhibits before, is handmade, innovative and reflective. “I’m not leaving Boone completely, but it’s time to put my baby to sleep,” Cook said.
Serving the area for nearly 30 yeas, Did Someone Say Party? is closing, most likely by the end of November “or whenever my stock is gone,” Cook said. Gowns, “by the hundreds,” have flown off the racks since her clearance sales have begun, and are quickly disappearing now, with prices offering a 70 percent discount. “Too often, people spend their whole budget on their wedding, but now they have money for other things. It’s my gift from me to my customers. It’s just the right thing to do,” she added.
Since her announcement in January, Cook has worked hard to make sure that the needs of her customers were met in advance, leaving no one with last-minute surprises. She stopped offering alterations in August and fulfilled her last obligations for tuxedoes last weekend. And she’s barely had time to turn around, as word of sales has brought bridal parties in from near and far.
Such was the case on Saturday morning, when, even before her 10 a.m. opening, brides were anxiously awaiting to get inside the store, along with their parents, wedding attendants, and one even with her groom. A flurry of activity quickly ensued, as selections were pulled from the racks and hung in the fitting rooms, while family and friends anxiously awaited on the other side.
As the brides came out appearing radiant with broad smiles on their faces, Donna, too, was smiling. “It’s all about their faces,” she said. “You can just tell when she knows she’s picked the perfect dress. It is so gratifying to know you’ve played such a big part in their lives, to be a part of this decision.”
Just as she earlier planned, Cook said, she is closing her store in the same manner in which she has always done business — “with positive vibes, kindness and loyalty to all our wonderful friends and family.” And, along with the sales, Cook is also working with nonprofit organizations, such as Brides Against Breast Cancer, and donating dresses to military wives, as well as to Angel Babies, which uses material from donated wedding gowns to clothe babies who do not survive.
“It’s important to me that we put to good use any of our remaining dresses, after all is said and done,” she said. In the midst of her smiles and tears, Cook said, “ I want us to do the right thing, as well as have fun while we still can,” she said.
Cook said she has always considered herself “so fortunate to be the caretaker of her amazing store,” one of which, she added, has been filled daily with laughter, joy and excitement. It also gave her countless opportunities to form lifetime relationships with her staff and customers. “Many of my brides became like family to me,” she said. In fact, she is now serving third generations of families, through providing attire for proms, homecomings and weddings.
Additionally, she is planning a sleepover in the shop for her “girls” who have worked for her through the years. “I raised my boys, but never had girls, except for my staff, many of whom I’ve loved like they were my very own.”
Being part of downtown Boone has been a joy, too, she surmised.“ This community has been very good to me. I believe in our little town and have watched her grow from a sleepy little college town to a thriving business community. Recalling our friendly shop tucked in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, many brides have returned to Boone to purchase their wedding gowns after graduating from Appalachian State.”
Cook cannot imagine a career more fulfilling than working with her customers at their happiest moments, she said. “Through the years, we have been entrusted with so many special occasions that I will always cherish.”
Cook remembers well her early days when she first started working in the special-events business, initially running Parties, Too for Boone Rent-all for nearly a decade in the early ‘80s.
She started her own business with costumes and wedding supplies, before realizing her full potential, and as things began falling into place, she said, she never looked back.
“Once you help a family and the bridal party with one wedding, then you have their friends and family coming back – and soon, you are outfitting the next generation with their first dance attire . . . and on it goes,” she said.
Owning the business has been a blessing, Cook said, but, also, a lifetime 24/7 commitment.
“I’ve been awake in the middle of the night trying to remember, did I put that sleeve on that dress? It’s something you never finish. You get one bride taken care of and then the next day you’re back at it again with a new bride and you do the same thing over again. You want to make sure that everything is perfect for each one.”
The decision to close her business is bittersweet to say the least, Cook admitted. “I lost both of my parents in the last year, which has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced. It has drained me, but it has also opened my eyes to realize that life is too short and should not be taken for granted. If my husband and I are going to have time to play, we’ve got to do it now. I’ve given half my life to this business.”
Initially, she considered selling the business, rather than close it, but, she admitted, the right buyer just never came along.
“It would be like selling my baby and I just couldn’t imagine letting someone else take her from me. ” Cook admitted. I’ve loved her, worried over her, prayed over her. She’s not just a store – she’s got personality!”
How is she feeling, right now? “Really good. I am ready,” she said. “Once I decided I could go out on top, knowing I had achieved my goals in life, it got easier.”
What does she plan to do, once closed? “I really don’t know,” Cook responded. “My husband and I have had a sail boat since 2000 and have never really got to enjoy it, so we may go to an island for six weeks — or six months. Who knows?”
She also plans to play “catch up” around the house. “Plus, in addition to my sons, who were 3 and 5 when I opened the store, I now have three grandbabies and hope to spend more time with them.”
Reality is sinking in, Cook said. Tears well up in her eyes as she looks over her store, contemplating the photos on the wall of beaming brides and other memorabilia that she’s collected through the years. Her grandmother’s sewing machine, on which she learned to sew, now occupies a special place in her window, as her grandmother’s dress patterns also adorn the walls of a dressing room.
“There’s so much in here, so many memories, that you just can’t put a price tag on,” she added. “But, I know that it’s time to go. Thank you, Boone, and everyone who has made this a wonderful, successful journey.”
Did Someone Say Party? Is located at 685 W. King St. in Boone. Business Hours: Tuesday through Friday 10:00 am to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday 10:00 am- 4:00 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.
For more information, call (828) 264-7307.