Suky Rosan: Wedding Crasher

For three decades, a gown from “Suky” telegraphed peerless Main Line style. When the legendary boutique failed, it seemed like the latest victim of the economy. But was it?

“What made that store was her personality,” says her eldest son, Jay, a family doctor in Conshohocken. When a bride walked in, the first thing Suky asked was her astrological sign. Suky felt that if a bride wasn’t properly paired up astrologically with her salesgirl, her perfect wedding simply wasn’t going to happen. She had a keen eye for talent: She helped launch Badgley Mischka into bridal celebrity, and in the late ’80s was the first boutique proprietor to carry the gowns of a young Chinese-American designer named Vera Wang. “Suky even sent Vera her best seamstress to help get her going, when she only had six or seven gowns in her first line,” says Pattie Lamantia, Suky’s manager for 25 years. “And we never got her back! But that was Suky’s thing. She had a flair for finding the up-and-coming. She was really the first to make bridal about fashion.”

After Suky’s death in 2003, Jay Rosan wanted to pass her torch to someone who would keep her stylish legacy alive — in the way that Karl Lagerfeld has for Chanel, or Tom Ford did for Gucci and YSL. He was positioning Suky Rosan for sale when he was approached by John B. Canuso, a South Jersey builder. Canuso told Rosan that his daughter, Mary Helen Ranieri, was interested. “I had known him for years,” says Rosan, “and Mary Helen had experience owning another high-end bridal salon. She had a real interest in bridal — which is completely different from other retail in regards to running a store.” He sold his mother’s store and name to Ranieri, then took a step back. “She had to do her own thing,” he says. “You don’t always want to see change occur, but things have to change. She had to do what was best for her, for the store.”

BACK IN 1988, Mary Helen Ranieri was a young woman working in real estate in South Jersey. Pretty, petite and brunette, she was in her mid-20s, renting out retail space at Main Street in Voorhees, a shiny new upscale shopping center her father had built. Nancy Saccomanno, the proprietor of a Main Street lingerie shop, was thinking about trying her hand in the high-end bridal market, and mentioned it to Ranieri one day at lunch. “Mary Helen said she had actually just been thinking the exact same thing,” says Saccomanno. So the pair opened the Bridal Garden in the Main Street complex in 1990; in ’92, they moved the business to its current location, on Route 70 in Marlton.

But by September 2001, their partnership was unraveling in a dispute over finances. Saccomanno sued Ranieri, Ranieri sued her back, and the court sent the case to arbitration. A year and a half later, the case settled, and Ranieri sold her share of the business to Saccomanno. Two years later, Ranieri bought Suky Rosan.