No Happy-Ever-After: Bridal Gown Retailer Dashed Dreams

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The stunning collapse of Alfred Angelo Bridal last month dashed the dreams of thousands of brides.

The Sun-Sentinel interviewed people who raced to save the Florida company in its final days, and paint a picture of a once-storied business that failed to change with the times. The Delray Beach-based company was one of the nation’s largest wedding dress retailers.

Under the Alfred Angelo system, brides visited the stores to try on sample wedding dresses. If they liked the look and the feel, they put a deposit on the dress and it was ordered, usually from China.

Industry experts say brides want gowns more quickly than they did in years past and may not be spending as much as the members of past generations.

More brides are searching online for vendors for their weddings and search for dresses and jewelry by browsing on the internet and engaging in social media.

“Today’s bride has a short fuse — they want things instantaneously from a store,” said David Wood, president of the Association of Bridal Consultants in Connecticut.

The failure to adapt ultimately forced the respected chain of worldwide stores to file for liquidation under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Last month, Alfred Angelo simultaneously closed its headquarters and stores worldwide.

Today, a load of 10,000 dresses worth $1.2 million are locked away in a warehouse in San Diego, subject to a lien for unpaid shipping charges, lawyers say. The dresses were aboard a boat from China when the company went out of business.

Brides stood outside many locations, including those in Boynton Beach, Sunrise and Coral Gables. They desperately hoped that representatives would unlock the doors and give them access to their chosen wedding dresses.

The lucky ones included Yadira Castro, 27, who said she finally connected with the Boynton Beach store’s seamstress who had her dress, a Princess Jasmine-inspired design from the Disney line that had won her heart. She had invested a total of $1,250 in wedding attire at the store.

“I did get my dress and everything worked out perfectly, besides that whole situation,” said Castro, who married Kyle Bonilla, 28, on July 22 at Lake Pavilion in West Palm Beach.

Miami bankruptcy lawyer Patricia Redmond, who represents the company, said she and others had been “working hard” to reopen stores and let people get their dresses and accessories.

“We have been able to connect over 100 brides with their seamstresses and they are working together on finishing alterations,” Redmond said last week.

But around the same time, Alfred Angelo’s bankruptcy trustee, Margaret Smith, delivered devastating news. In a note on the company’s website, she warned customers that if a dress order has not been delivered, it will “remain unfilled” because of the “logistical and financial strain.” Deliveries, said the trustee, are “no longer possible.”

Founded in 1933 in Philadelphia by Alfred Angelo Piccione, the business was joined by his wife, fashion designer Edythe Vincent Piccione, according to a corporate history on the company’s website. They worked together for 45 years. Edythe died in 2012 at age 91 in Palm Beach Gardens; her husband predeceased her.

The founders’ son, Vincent, and daughter Michele Piccione, then chief creative designer, ran the business after their parents’ retirement. Michele Piccione retired in 2015, according to an article by industry magazine Vows.

Trouble came when the U.S. real estate crisis hit in 2009-2010, knocking the company’s growth strategy off-course. More retailers began selling online rather than open new brick-and-mortar stores.