East Sacramento will be losing a retail institution this Sunday as the House of Fashion Bridal Salon & Tuxedos closes after nearly 55 years of business at 3801 J St. The Yagi-Murai family is consolidating any remaining inventory into their larger store at 21st and J streets in midtown Sacramento.
Family matriarch and seamstress Naomi Yagi, now 93, founded the House of Fashion as a dress shop in 1960, borrowing about $12,000 from her brother to get the business up and running, said her granddaughter Jennifer Davis-Murai.
“A few bridal representatives came through and suggested, ‘Why don’t you pick up bridal? There’s really not that many bridal shops in Sacramento,’ ” Davis-Murai said, “so she did.”
Davis-Murai’s parents expanded the business in 1996, buying a 10,000-square-foot store in midtown as consumers sought more inventory. As it turned out, David and Karen Murai chose a highly visible location, a former bank branch at 2101 J St. As sales there superseded those of the original House of Fashion, the Yagi-Murai family converted the East Sacramento location into a bridal outlet store.
“Every season, as the gowns get discontinued by the manufacturers, those dresses were moved to the outlet and sold at reduced prices: 50 percent off, 70 percent off,” Davis-Murai said. “We are having a big super-sale right now. There are close to about 100 wedding gowns there, and they’re priced anywhere from $50 to $200. There are also bridal party dresses, and those are $20.”
Today, Davis-Murai said, the number of bridal stores has grown in the Sacramento region, and since consumers have more places to shop, there’s not a reason to carry as much inventory. The Yagi-Murai family is consequently moving the discontinued merchandise into a single room at their midtown location.
The family has sold the East Sacramento building, Davis-Murai said, and the new owners told her it will house a hair salon.
The 42-year-old Davis-Murai said she has fond memories of days spent at the original location.
“I was a latchkey kid, so after school, I would take the bus to David Lubin (Elementary School) and then walk over to the store, wait for my mom to finish up,” Davis-Murai said. “I wasn’t really allowed on the floor when I was little. There was a separate playroom/office area for me, but as I got older, I would help out.”
That was the 1980s, and Davis-Murai recalled wedding gowns with elaborate sleeves that poufed at the upper arm but fitted snugly from elbow to wrist.
“It was just so great to be able to see somebody start trying on all the dresses and then having that happy feeling once they found the one,” she said.
Davis-Murai found her prom dress at the original House of Fashion, but by the time she married Chris Davis in 2004, it was the midtown store that supplied her simple, silk mikado gown made by Jenny Lee Bridal. The retailer also sells dresses from such designers as Lazaro, Allure Bridals, Maggie Sottero, Casablanca and MoriLee. The goal, Davis-Murai said, is to be able to meet a bride’s needs whether she has a $500 budget or a $5,000 budget.
Twenty-five or 30 years ago, bridal salons had contracts to exclusively sell a particular designer’s dresses, Davis-Murai said, but those days are over. Consequently, the House of Fashion didn’t lose any designers because of the arrival of David’s Bridal or other stores selling bridal wear.
The biggest competition these days doesn’t come from other retailers, Davis-Murai said. Rather, it comes from the Internet. Brides, prom attendees and quinceañera celebrants will come to the store and spend hours trying on dresses to find just the right one, then will go online and buy it at a lower price. It’s a trend known as showrooming, which threatens the profitability of brick-and-mortar stores that allow consumers to see, touch and try on the merchandise.
“When it comes to someone planning their wedding, we still offer a valued service, the one on one, the face to face, and the expertise,” Davis-Murai said. “It’s not like you’re buying a pair of jeans. You’re buying your wedding dress. You’re buying a bridesmaid dress. They’re specialty items.”
The consolidation will not result in any job losses for the 23 employees at midtown’s House of Fashion, Davis-Murai said, because the outlet store has been run by only one employee.
For many years, that employee has been Dawn Kilgore, who will relocate to the midtown store. Kilgore has photos of her daughters, now teenagers, trying on flower girl dresses at the original House of Fashion. One of Kilgore’s aunts and a cousin also worked at the original House of Fashion.
“The place has a lot of history to it, and I’m kind of sad that it’s closing,” Kilgore said. “Before me, my aunt worked here, and before her, it was one of her cousins.… It’s the end of an era.”
Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.