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Since opening Destiny’s Bride in 1997, Lisa Daversa-Paurich has experienced both the highs and lows of the bridal retail business.

     First, the highs.
    Over the last quarter-century, Daversa-Paurich and her team have catered to hundreds of brides with an unrelenting customer-centric edge. Destiny’s Bride has helped everyday Janes find their gowns as well as celebrity brides such as professional race car driver Danica Patrick, former Baywatch star Gena Lee Nolin and one prominent adult film actress whose surgically enhanced dimensions compelled a phone call from Romona Keveza to verify the accuracy of the store’s measurements. For its efforts, Destiny’s Bride has been named one of America’s “50 Best Independent Wedding Salons” by BRIDES.

    Now, the not-so-highs.
    Daversa-Paurich has moved her Scottsdale, Ariz.-based boutique four times, saved more than once by the energized work of a business ally. She survived a near-fatal blow from the Great Recession with a self-made concoction of strategy and grit, and endured a frustrating experience as a quasi-landlord that pushed her to recalibrate her vision.
    And yet, Destiny’s Bride stands on the doorstep of its 25th anniversary, Daversa-Paurich’s soul filled with a hearty mix of gratitude, grace and appreciation for the past and the present.
   “There’s a reason it’s called Destiny’s,” she says.

‘That stupid bridal store idea’
    Feeling she had hit a wall in her department store managerial career, Daversa-Paurich examined potential next steps. When she sought the advice of her father, he offered a straight-shooting reply.
    “You’ve been talking about that stupid bridal store idea since you were a kid, so write a business plan and get a small business loan,” he said.
    Indeed, Daversa-Paurich had dreamed of owning a bridal store since kindergarten, a fanciful idea she carried into her adult years, which included lugging around bridal magazines during a jet-setting turn as a flight attendant.
    As her father suggested, Daversa-Paurich carefully crafted a business plan for a boutique. She defined the basic details of her business and created a market analysis detailing the competitive environment. She produced thoughtful, well-researched financials and offered reasonable projections.
   Optimistic and prepared, Daversa-Paurich then ventured into a local bank seeking a loan. Her application was promptly denied.
    “You’re not making enough in year one,” the loan officer told her.
   Daversa-Paurich altered her revenue projections and visited another bank, only to meet the same result. She repeated the process yet again and the third time proved the charm. She secured the necessary capital, which enabled her to grab a tidy 1,200-square-foot retail space in Scottsdale’s Seville Shopping Center and begin filling it with bridal inventory. She hired employees from the department store, including one who steered the development of the couture side that would quickly emerge the hallmark of Destiny’s Bride.
    “I just wanted a happy little bridal shop,” she says.
    Daversa-Paurich, though, gained much more than that.
    A former bridal store owner from Boston who had retired to Scottsdale provided early guidance, helping Daversa-Paurich avoid some minefields, while the store’s “true customer service orientation” attracted a swelling amount of buzz, especially since Destiny’s one local competitor at the time did not carry the same reputation.
   “Their folly allowed me to succeed,” Daversa-Paurich says of her former foe. “People bought from me because I smiled and because I would really do anything to create a seamless experience for them.”
    While Daversa-Paurich initially planned on running Destiny’s Bride in parallel with a wedding consulting business, she quickly ditched that scheme.
    “My first day on the consulting side, I saw a dad in the bathroom bawling his eyes out and knew I couldn’t deal with that,” she says. “Plus, the retail shop was giving me plenty enough to handle.”

The ‘it’ boutique
    With each passing month, Destiny’s Bride welcomed more brides and captured more sales. Its marketplace notoriety swelled and designers contacted Daversa-Paurich about getting their collections into her store.
    “I was the ‘it’ girl,” she says.
    To keep pace with surging demand, Daversa-Paurich hired additional employees and expanded to a 2,500-square-foot storefront in the same Seville Shopping Center location. Even with 11 fitting rooms and price points starting at $4,000, however, Destiny’s Bride still struggled to satisfy demand.
    “We had a line out the door,” Daversa-Paurich says.
    Again, she moved Destiny’s Bride to a bigger storefront, leaving the Seville Shopping Center in 2005 for a two-story, 3,700-square-foot retail space located about two miles away in The Borgata of Scottsdale. Less than a decade after opening, Destiny’s revenue had soared to more than $2 million.
    “We were rocking it,” Daversa-Paurich says.
    Everything was looking up – until the economy began looking down in late 2007.
    With the Great Recession, the stock market plummeted about 50 percent and the net worth of U.S. households tumbled $19 trillion. Suddenly, $4,000 wedding gowns weren’t so accessible or necessary. Daversa-Paurich saw her sales drop about 75 percent and Destiny’s Bride, for the first time ever, failed to turn a profit.
    “I had only known the ups, not the downs, and the recession made me realize I had a lot to learn,” Daversa-Paurich says. She scraped and persevered. To lower expenses, she didn’t replace staff members who left the business for other opportunities. To drive revenue, she devoted a full year to diversifying her inventory and stocking gowns in the $2,000-$4,000 range.
    “I had to learn the hard way that I needed more diversity in my collection. I needed to be able to sell to the $2,000 bride as well as the $10,000 bride,” Daversa-Paurich says. “And honestly, I was just too stupid to quit. I refused to go out of business.”
    In 2010, with Destiny’s revenue still well below its pre-recession highs, Daversa-Paurich accepted an invitation from a local developer to move her business to Old Town Scottsdale. The developer dreamed up the idea of a couture wedding experience under a single roof. He positioned Destiny’s Bride as the facility’s anchor tenant alongside other high-end bridal vendors ranging from florists and wedding coordinators to tuxedo rental.
    “We would be separate but affiliated businesses, each of them paying me rent so they could have immediate access to my brides,” Daversa-Paurich says.
    A wonderful idea in theory, the reality was not so cozy for Daversa-Paurich. Being a pseudo-landlord added to her administrative workload and proved too complex an arrangement.
    “It was a saving measure that allowed me to survive, but I had my own customers to worry about,” says Daversa-Paurich, who calls those post-recession years a time of earnest reflection that urged her to re-evaluate her personal and professional goals.
    “When I was making $2 million, I didn’t fully understand what was going on in the store because I was off the floor managing the business on the back end,” she says. “I felt I was losing touch with who I was and I wanted to turn that around.”

Back where it all started
    At the start of 2016, Daversa-Paurich returned to her roots – literally and figuratively – by moving Destiny’s Bride back to the Seville Shopping Center and pledging to be a more active presence on the showroom floor. One of her former brides, a prominent commercial real estate agent in Scottsdale, enthusiastically shepherded the move, pampering Daversa-Paurich with an interior decorator to outfit the 2,300-square-foot space to Daversa-Paurich’s specifications.
    The move enabled Daversa-Paurich to recenter herself and her business. She extracted herself from the back office to interact with brides and staff more frequently and revised her goals around what constituted a successful business.
   “‘Content’ has become a new word in my vocabulary,” Daversa-Paurich admits.
    While Destiny’s Bride has long fashioned itself a customer-centric operation, Daversa-Paurich says that focus has intensified even more over recent years, propelled by the attentive eye of manager Joy Kinder.
    “She brings a depth of investigation to her work that is just amazing,” Daversa-Paurich says of Kinder, who worked on the design side for the likes of Oscar de la Renta, Amsale and Melissa Sweet before joining Destiny’s Bride. “She gets into knowing the bride and doesn’t let go.”
    Leading with a sincere affinity for the customer, Daversa-Paurich says Destiny’s Bride guides each bride through the available inventory with knowledge, honesty and a genuine focus on their individual needs. Daversa-Paurich seeks to provide a glowing customer experience that is informative, direct and absent unpleasant surprises.
    To that end, Destiny’s Bride caps in-store alterations at $350 for a straight dress and $450 for a ballgown. Two contract seamstresses housed at Destiny’s Bride alter as close to the wedding as possible – no more than three weeks before the date – to make alterations more precise and cost efficient.
    “I made the decision to stay out of the bride’s pocketbook when it comes to alterations. I need to know each bride is walking out my door happy and ready for her wedding,” says Daversa-Paurich, whose boutique also performs redesign work such as adding sleeves or capes to gowns.
    Daversa-Paurich also provides brides who pay in full a 10-percent discount on their gown, an overture she says 98 percent of her brides take. In addition, she offers after-hours private parties to brides who want a more intimate experience with their own group. Destiny’s Bride provides three distinct private party packages, including options that involve food and beverage as well as a makeup artist, with a portion of the booking fee credited to any on-site sale.
   “For us, it’s, ‘Do as the customer wishes to do,’” Daversa-Paurich says.
    Daversa-Paurich’s more streamlined, elevated approach has propelled bottom-line results as well as a deeper sense of personal satisfaction. In fact, she calls the current iteration of Destiny’s Bride her “final resting place.”
    “I just want to keep making brides happy,” she says. “It’s a simple thing but a nice thing.”

Photo Credits:
Jennifer Griffith,
Bridgette Marie Photography