The San Francisco bridal shop that’s been making memories for 30 years

Small business owner Gesinee Van Atta is in the business of making memories — and after 30 years of helping local brides find the perfect dress, she’s become an expert. 

Tags: Best practices, Small Business
Published: July 07, 2021

Gesinee’s Bridal might be a small business, but since its beginning in 1989, it’s grown into something much bigger. What started as a 3,200 square-foot tailor and design shop has grown into a 20,000 square-foot full service bridal salon that carries thousands of dresses at a time. But it’s not only grown into a bigger business: it’s also grown as a large part of the San Francisco community. Over the last 30+ years, owner Gesinee Van Atta has been helping brides find the perfect gown — and she’s loved every second of it.

 

What inspired you to open a bridal shop?

“I had a degree in fashion design and I always loved fashion. I loved designing clothes. I figured that I wanted to specialize in something, and I picked weddings. In college, I had the chance to work in a bridal shop during the summer, and I fell in love with it. I loved seeing all the brides so happy. It was such a special day for everyone. I got really into it, and expanded into prom, tuxedos, and now we have a full-service salon. We’re one of the largest locally-owned bridal salons in Northern California.”

 

What’s made people want to come to Gesinee’s for so many years?

“We have a big selection of wedding gowns to choose from. We probably have 2,500 or 3,000 dresses in the store for customers to pick. Some customers try on 30, 40 dresses before they pick which one they want. We have something for everyone — bridesmaids, mothers, flower girls. Everything you could need for a wedding party is here; it’s a one-stop-shop. Plus, our customer service is very personalized. I have a large staff of consultants that help brides one-on-one and guide them to buying the right dress.

People also like that it’s local. I’ve been in this city for 40 years. At big box stores, you try on the dress and give them money before you can even take anything home with you. They don’t have as many dresses, they might not be the right color, the right size. That’s what makes us different and unique - people know me and trust me because we’re a local small business that’s trustworthy.”

 

What’s the most rewarding part of owning a shop that helps people make such important memories?

“I used to do all of [the customer service tasks], but now that I’ve had a staff that’s been with me 20, 30 and 40 years, they handle the day-to-day customer service. My favorite part now is to see the brides’ happy endings with their dresses. I get to watch people come in and find the perfect dress, then after the wedding I get a thank-you card saying how wonderful the wedding was. They’ll send pictures and say how many compliments they got from guests. That’s what makes me happiest, is to see how my business makes everyone happy.”

 

What memory of owning Gesinee’s is especially close to your heart?

“There was a woman who was in a wheelchair who came in looking for a wedding dress. She loved the designer dresses we had. She had been everywhere looking, but no one had taken her seriously or given her the help she needed. But we helped her find a dress and tailor it so it fit perfectly. Seeing the whole family cry with happiness and later seeing pictures of how beautiful the dress looked at the wedding, that’s my favorite memory. I have a lot of memories from over the years, but that’s my favorite. We always have more happy customers than unhappy customers. They all leave with a smile and a unique dress. Every day is joyful, seeing all that happiness. When you see the family cry, you know – ‘Oh my goodness, we really made a difference.”

 


Inspired by businesses who’ve stood the test of time? We are too. Read more and learn about how Al’s Breakfast (a Minneapolis staple) has been bringing people together for decades.