Building facades for USA Bridal and Tuxedo Avenue on North Dixie Avenue in Elizabethtown suggest that there are only two retail stores inside, supplying people with their formal, prom and wedding needs.
“Everyone thinks we’re running a little bridal shop,” owner Bobbie Crabtree said, “but that’s just the button of the shirt.”
Behind the retail storefront are thousands and thousands of square feet dedicated to national wholesale and fulfillment services, in addition to supporting their retail storefronts in Elizabethtown, Nashville and Louisville.
It is also a family affair. Crabtree and her husband, Bucky McQueen, met in the industry nearly 20 years ago, though they wouldn’t see each other as husband and wife until 2019.
Crabtree said customers came to her business at the time wanting particular vests, so she contacted the sales rep for them, who happened to be McQueen. She made a big order, but the two never met in person for the deal.
She and her son, Kyle Taylor, who has worked alongside her for much of her life and is instrumental in their current operations, wondered what the man behind the deep voice sounded like.
“In my mind, Bucky McQueen was short and portly, and probably bald,” Crabtree said.
At an industry convention, she saw McQueen, whom she described as a “tall glass of water.”
They met and continued to have a great working relationship for years, working more and more together. Over time, fate brought them together at the right time.
“Yadda yadda yadda, we got married in 2019,” Crabtree said.
Taylor and his wife, Dariela, also met in the industry and married after their own “yadda yadda yadda,” Crabtree said.
Family businesses continued to grow, employing more than 100 people before the pandemic. But when COVID-19 caused most proms and weddings to be canceled or restricted, it hit them hard.
“I cried,” Crabtree said. “I walked into that warehouse and cried.”
It was April 2020, which is traditionally one of their busiest months.
“It was that time of year and there was nothing,” she said.
Taylor was in his garden playing with his daughter one afternoon when he realized how strange it was not to work in their warehouse.
“I never had a day off in April,” he said. “Usually it’s 70 to 80 hours of work a week at this time of year.”
The industry as a whole felt the sting. In an effort to cope, companies have started to reduce their warehouses.
“They needed to reduce their warehouses and they needed help with shipping,” Crabtree said.
To survive, Crabtree and his family decided to facilitate these reductions by offering fulfillment services to other industry players.
The stores have shipments delivered to Crabtree and her family, those shipments are processed, and then they are shipped to other bridal stores.
“You never see your product,” Crabtree said.
The strategy worked, and the family was able to help ease the burden on other businesses in the industry while providing an additional source of income for their own business throughout the pandemic.
Even though proms and weddings are now mostly back to normal, they have continued to run the execution side of the business, based on hard work and lots of organization to make sure everything goes smoothly. goes well.
“Every piece has to work,” Crabtree said. “We know exactly where every item is in that warehouse because everything has a barcode on it. »
McQueen said efficiency and speed are key for them.
“It’s a time-sensitive industry,” he said. “Proms are this weekend. The weddings are this weekend.
The two said they sometimes felt like Mr. Haney from the TV show “Green Acres” when asked what they were up to, having everything anyone could need at the time. Unlike Mr. Haney, however, the whole family works to make sure customers are happy and the products look great.