‘From the Gegent’ is a series of articles featuring businesses, services and the people behind them in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. Presented by Mica Soffer, owner and publisher of community news service COLlive.com and neighborhood directory gegent.com:
You enter the beautifully renovated boutique, and find a large selection of elegant, stylish and modern evening wear. The walls are lined with stunning gowns in many styles, colors, and fabrics, and a modern, spacious fitting room boasts curtained privacy booths, a delicate tufted couch, and a large elegant mirror.
But don’t be fooled into thinking this is an expensive boutique on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
This is the Simchas Rochel and Golda Gown Gmach on President Street in Crown Heights, and your fellow New Yorkers should only be so lucky to hear about it. At this dress rental shop, dresses cost only $100 to rent.
It was founded 5 years ago by Mrs. Devora Wilmowsky to offer women of all sizes a selection of beautiful, yet affordable, wedding fashion. She dedicated it in memory of her grandmother Mrs. Rochel Kloc OBM. Soon afterwards, Mrs. Chana Seligson came on board, and she dedicated her involvement to the memory of her mother, Mrs. Goldie Glicksman OBM.
Together, the two Crown Heights residents have worked tirelessly to grow the gmach, filling their one-room shop with hundreds of dresses of all sizes. They are assisted in the day to day operations by Mrs. Sorah Andrusier, who greets customers and helps with giving motherly advice to women who are trying on dresses and could use an experienced eye to help them decide.
Recently, the gmach expanded to another whole room filled with gowns in pre-teen and teen sizes, the result of a large donation by the children of Mrs. Feigy Cohen OBM of Borough Park, who ran a large teen dress rental shop before her passing.
Since they are a gmach and not a traditional rental, Wilmowsky explains, “people are constantly donating their time, expertise and money, as well as dresses in all styles and sizes,” she says. “People understand that it’s a chesed, and they want to be part of something good.”
As the demand grows, they have been revamping their space with the generous assistance of Mrs. Maggie Rogatsky of Couture Spaces and donations from companies like Elegant Walls in Borough Park and others.
All this allows them to keep prices at a minimum, yet uphold a high-quality standard. And don’t even think of thinking this gmach is just for “the poor and the dowdy,” they say.
“When making a wedding, people are spending so much money on travel, the wedding, setting up a home, and many other expenses,” Wilmowsky says. “So when the mother of the bride can get a stunning gown for $100 that she feels so beautiful in, and didn’t cost a lot of money, she is euphoric.”
“A wedding is the most joyous time, and at the same time, that of great economic stress,” says Seligson. “We are there to ease some of the pressure many families may face.”
“People think if you go to a gown gmach you will only get an old-fashioned, sad looking dress from 20 years ago. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our gowns are up to date, they are new and trendy,” says Wilmowsky.
The gowns stocked at the gmach are kept beautiful, clean and refurbished, so each customer feels special in theirs. The gowns that show wear and tear or are less than fashionable, are donated elsewhere.
“We cater to many people who can afford to pay more, but think it’s unwise to pay $500, or even up to $5000 to rent a dress for one night,” Seligson says.
Customers travel to the Gown Gmach from the Five Towns, Monsey, Lakewood, Woodmere, New Jersey, and all over the tri-state area, Seligson says, “and they are just in awe of the selection.”
With Crown Heights becoming known as trendsetters in fashion, with local businesses designing or importing trendy clothing, the impact is also felt at the gmach, where people come here to find the most beautiful, stylish gowns.
Both women agree that the best part of their job is having a part in the hundreds of Simchas around the world.
“People are always so grateful that they have one less major expense among all the other expenses,” says Wilmowsky. “They give us brachos, and thank us, and it makes us feel like we are part of the simcha. This is what gives us the energy to continue,” she says.
“We always ask afterward, ‘how did the gown work out, did you like how it looked, was it a success?’ because we really care, and it gives us such pleasure to make people happy, it’s really rewarding,” Seligson says.
Read the Gegent article series here.