GOWANUS — The land of tire shops and plumbing supply stores is about to get a dose of French lace, tulle and silk.
Designer Rebecca Schoneveld Cheek of Schone Bridal is opening the neighborhood's first bridal boutique on Third Avenue and 12th Street within the next month or so. The 700-square-foot space will house both a shop and a production facility, where Cheek and her employees will handcraft wedding dresses.
The FIT-trained designer has been working out of a 220-square-foot space in a Park Slope apartment she shares with her husband, two cats and their 2-year-old son. Opening a boutique of her own has been a dream for a while, but the steep storefront rents on Fifth Avenue were out of her reach. She jumped at the chance when she found the relatively cheap Third Avenue spot on Craigslist.
Cheek, 30, has worked in fashion for about 10 years and once had a business designing contemporary maternity wear. Two years ago she put some cocktail-style dresses up for sale on Etsy, and quickly got requests from women who wanted longer, white versions to wear as bridal gowns. Now she runs a bridal studio with three employees out of her 10th Street home.
Cheek says the Third Avenue shop will provide an antidote to the bridal-industrial complex that forces women to shell out for princess-style dresses at intimidating boutiques. Gowns at those stores can easily run into the thousands of dollars, and must sometimes be ordered more than six months in advance. Alterations can also cost another hefty chunk of change.
"It's just so generally unpleasant," Cheek said of the modern bridal experience. "We're trying to give people a place where they can relax and have fun. It's not some pretentious, judgmental place. We just want to make cool stuff and make people happy."
Cheek makes custom-designed dresses, but she also has sets of tops and bottoms in her collection that brides can mix and match according to their taste. The Third Avenue shop will carry a few pieces from other bridal collections, and will also offer alterations on all types of clothing.
The new boutique needs some significant renovations before opening, so Cheek has started an online fundraising campaign to help cover the cost. She wants to install a new front window and door, new heating and air conditioning, and new flooring. To spruce up the somewhat desolate block, she'd also like to add some plants and a bench on the sidewalk outside the new shop.
Cheek and her husband lived in Gowanus several years ago, and she's looking forward to returning to the rapidly changing area.
"The neighborhood has definitely been picking up," Cheek said. "There's so much cool stuff happening there. People are going to be like, 'There's a wedding dress shop there now? What's next, a spa?'"