Biz Buzz: Dubuque bridal store adapts; distillery gives back; greenhouse changes hands

Shelby Duggan (left), owner of Vintage Chic Bridal Boutique, hands Bri Young, of Dubuque, her dress on Friday outside of her store in Dubuque. Duggan has tweaked her approach to meet customers’ needs. PHOTO CREDIT: EILEEN MESLAR

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from around the tri-states. This week, we highlight developments in Dubuque, Elkader and Holy Cross, Iowa.

A local store has reshaped its business model to continue serving brides-to-be during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vintage Chic Bridal Boutique, located at 1540 Central Ave. in Dubuque, has been closed to traditional walk-in traffic since March 20, according to owner Shelby Duggan.

Through a combination of virtual appointments and “at-home try-ons,” however, the business has continued operations.

Duggan explained that brides-to-be can pre-select desired styles or colors prior to participating in online sessions. Dresses then can be placed on mannequins to simulate their appearance and aid customers in making their choice.

Vintage Chic then offers to deliver dresses or make them available via “curbside pickup” at the store.

Duggan said she has sold three dresses since shuttering the storefront one month ago. It’s a higher figure than she expected, but she still longs for a return to normalcy.

“I get close to the brides that I work with,” said Duggan. “I definitely miss those in-person interactions.”

Duggan said her clients have had a variety of reactions over the past month, with some opting to postpone their weddings and others choosing to scale back their ceremonies.

Dubuque resident Bri Young and her fiance, Shawn Edwards, planned to marry on May 23 with 75 people in attendance. The couple since has adapted their approach and now plan for a much smaller ceremony, explained Young.

She picked out a dress from Vintage Chic Bridal Boutique in January. On Friday, she utilized curbside pickup to get it and ensure it will fit properly on her upcoming wedding day.

“Things are different now, but I am happy we can work with (Vintage Chic) and find a way to make this work,” she said.

Vintage Chic Bridal Boutique can be reached at 563-581-9945.

FINDING SOLUTIONS

A small Dubuque County distillery is shifting gears to provide necessary supplies in the midst of the ongoing health crisis.

Chuck Westphal, owner of 3 Oaks Distillery, said he recently started creating hand sanitizer out of his business’s Holy Cross headquarters.

He decided to focus on sanitizer production after learning of a shortage at Sunnycrest Manor, a long-term-care facility in Dubuque. The need for sanitizer struck a chord with Westphal, whose daughter resides at the facility.

Westphal said he plans to donate 20 gallons of the product to Sunnycrest.

“It is nice that I can contribute to her care,” he said. “It is gratifying, and we’re happy we’re in a position where we can do that.”

3 Oaks Distillery also will provide sanitizer to Mines of Spain State Recreation Area and other local entities.

Westphal noted that he benefited from the help of other organizations as he sought to shift his production. Dave’s Feed Store in Luxemburg, Iowa, for instance, provided the corn needed to make the sanitizer.

Westphal began production at 3 Oaks Distillery in 2014.

The operation now creates bourbon and whiskey and produces 3,000 to 4,000 bottles per year. Its bourbon recently earned a silver medal from American Distilling Institute.

Bourbon and whiskey created by 3 Oaks can be found at Family Beer & Liquor in East Dubuque, Ill., as well as local Hy-Vee stores.

GREENHOUSE CHANGES HANDS

New owners have taken the reins at a longtime greenhouse business in Elkader.

Natasha Hegmann and Pete Kerns recently became owners of Elkader Greenhouse, 701 Sunburst Lane SE. The husband-and-wife duo already owned and operated Turkey River Farm, a diversified farm located in Elkport, Iowa.

“We saw this (greenhouse) as an opportunity to grow our business and do something complementary to what we were already offering with the farm,” Hegmann said.

Prior to the recent change in ownership, Elkader Greenhouse had been operated by Pam and Steve Stahr since 1983. The former owners continue to have a presence at the greenhouse as Hegmann and Kerns settle into their new roles.

“It is amazing to be able to learn from them,” said Natasha.

Elkader Greenhouse sells a wide variety of flowers, plants, seeds and gardening supplies. For Hegmann and Kerns, the business provides an opportunity to advance their passions for food and nutrition education.

The couple is taking steps to make sure their products are available to customers even as their physical location is closed to the public.

A “virtual greenhouse,” which can be accessed at www.facebook.com/ElkaderGreenhouse, shows customers which items are currently in stock. Such items are available via curbside pickup or delivery. The business also can be contacted by calling 563-245-1006.