AP NEWS

Bridal shop fulfills dream woman shared with her late mother

March 11, 2019

ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) — Allie Walker’s shared dream with her mother, Susan, almost didn’t come to fruition.

Around Thanksgiving 2016, Walker and her mom started talking seriously about the logistics of opening their own bridal boutique.

But two weeks later, Susan Walker died of a heart attack at 60.

Since her mom’s death, there have been a few times when Walker considered giving up on the shared dream, like when two different buildings she was in the early stages of buying were quickly sold. But she kept going.

“Because I know if I used her as an excuse not to do it, she would be really upset,” Walker said of her mother. “If I used the building getting sold out from under me as an excuse, she would be like, ‘You know better. Knock on another door.’”

On Feb. 25, Walker opened Katharine Marie Weddings in a temporary location on East Greenville Street until her permanent location on Benson Street downtown is renovated.

Walker, 29, was born and raised in Anderson and never imagined opening a business here, but she said she’s seen the city change so much over the years that she changed her mind.

“I think seeing what could be in downtown, it just always kind of felt like that’s where it needed to be,” Walker said. “People think you have to go to Greenville to have this Pinterest-worthy wedding, and you don’t even have to leave downtown Anderson.

“They think they want that Greenville experience or even Atlanta — when I worked at a bridal shop there, we’d have brides from Anderson ... because they want to go to Atlanta and get a hotel room and go do something fun,” she said. “But you can do that here in Anderson and still get that upscale experience.”

Shelby Clardy, manager at the Bleckley Inn, said she’s excited for Walker’s shop to open downtown.

“We’re looking forward to sending our brides to Allie’s boutique,” she said.

Walker said she always wanted to be involved in the fashion world. She spent some time after graduating from the University of Georgia applying for fashion jobs in New York City while trying to convince her mom to move forward on opening their own shop.

She also worked for two years as a bridal stylist in Atlanta to make sure that’s what she really wanted to do.

Having a bridal shop seems to run in the family. Walker’s grandmother’s aunt, Katharine Reed, ran a bridal shop on McDuffie Street more than 30 years ago.

That’s where the Katharine in the store name comes from. Marie was Susan Walker’s middle name.

Katharine Marie offers both wedding planning and wedding dresses, which combines what Walker says are the two aspects she enjoys most. The gowns she carries range in price from $1,500 to $3,600.

Walker said she will donate a portion of each of her sales to Haven of Rest in Anderson and Humanity and Hope United Foundation. The three veils she carries now are handmade by Polished Pearl, a company that employs survivors of trafficking in Moldova and India.

She hopes everyone is comfortable visiting the boutique, whether it is the temporary location or the future. She said people can expect the same amount of service in both locations.

She said she’s heard horror stories from brides about their dress-shopping experiences, and she plans to have her store minimize the main stressors: family opinions, body image and budget.

She carries sample sizes from 6 to 20, and can order up to a size 32. She has a color-coded pricing system to keep brides from feeling ashamed of their budgets, and she plans to talk privately with brides ahead of time to understand the family dynamics at play with the fitting.

“It can be a memorable day and not a disaster,” Walker said.

After her mother died, Walker went back to her job in Atlanta. She remembers the first time a mother and daughter came into the shop and had a touching moment like the one she imagined she would have dress shopping for her own wedding.

“I walked away, and was like, ‘Can I do this?’” Walker said. “Am I going to cry at every appointment when a mom and daughter are really sweet? And I might, who knows? But at the same point, you can’t let grief push you away from your dream. You can only let it push you toward it.”

Walker hopes her downtown store location will be open by June and plans to hold a charity bridal fashion show as her grand-opening event.