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?

Inside the boutique, some associates say they found themselves working for the anti-Suky. Ranieri lacked the legendary Rosan’s outsize personality, and her staff says she actively avoided being seen out front on the sales floor and aggressively pushed her salespeople to close deals. One says Ranieri insisted that receptionists inquire about prospective brides’ budgets; the biggest spenders got the most experienced helpers, and those on a budget got newbies. While perhaps not an unusual business strategy, it was a far cry from the store namesake’s earnest and enthusiastic astrological pairings and fluffy fussing. “When I think of ‘owner,’ I think of Suky,” says Kye Williams-Waheed, whom Suky hired in 1998 and who left last October to work for a Suky competitor. “Mary Helen wouldn’t be that owner who was out on the floor talking to brides, finding out how they are doing. She didn’t have that love.”

Salesgirls struggled to deal with a constant barrage of brides asking, first nervously and then furiously, where their dresses were. According to several former Suky employees, it was the ugliness that ensued from the ordering of brides’ dresses that may have done the store in for good. Williams-Waheed recalls bridal gowns that were ordered on time but arrived at the store late — because, she speculates, the designers hadn’t yet been paid. Sarah Limbich, who worked as a receptionist at Suky between 2007 and 2008, recounts other occasions when dresses hadn’t even been ordered by the time brides appeared for their fittings. She says she’d go and ask Ranieri — who wouldn’t speak to the distressed brides herself — what to say. “It was awful,” she says. “Every call was a complaint. If someone called just to ask what time the store opened, I jumped for joy.”

Ranieri says the blame for the tardy gowns lies with skyrocketing gas prices. “My vendors are couture; they buy fabrics from Paris and China and London and Barcelona. And they started bulk-shipping the fabrics — they weren’t getting fabrics in as often. So where they used to make one dress and ship it out, they were now waiting to put several dresses in a shipment.” She also says she was ordering brides’ gowns so they would arrive in-store four months before the wedding date, unaware that salesgirls were giving customers other arrival dates.