Collingwood’s bridal shop is officially award-winning.
Exchanging Vows Bridal Boutique - located on Hurontario and Fourth Street - was recently named 2019 Boutique of the Year for the Central West area at the inaugural Ontario Wedding Awards by Creative Oceanic.
Store owner and Collingwood resident Tara Klein said she was surprised and happy to win the award. Her store and others in the GTA and York Region area were nominated by members of the public based on customer service experience.
“I was totally surprised we won,” said Klein. “It makes you feel like everything you do is worthwhile.”
Klein has had a 25-year career in the bridal industry, including a stint working for a New York-based designer – and now works at keeping a bride’s dress-buying experience simple.
“I like to keep it casual, and make people feel welcome,” said Klein. “I’m honest and I have a designer background, which helps me answer their questions.” She is also a certified wedding planner.
Klein said she loves being part of a bride’s special day.
“It’s sometimes emotional,” she said. “Sometimes I get invited to a wedding. I like to go to the ceremony … I’m a romantic.”
Klein said she has a lot of brides from the Toronto area and some from Owen Sound. Her boutique is on the smaller side, and it’s less busy than some of the larger salons. She will often have two families in the shop with two different brides, and by the end of the day, they are each sharing the experience together as friends.
“For the most part, it’s a journey to pick out a dress,” said Klein. “I want them to be happy in their dress… and I can tell when a girl puts on her dress.”
She said the journey will often continue when families come back to her shop with photos, and some brides will come back to visit with new babies.
Klein said she’s seen some level of intimidation in people who are dress shopping.
“They watch Reality TV and think coming into a shop is going to be like that,” said Klein. “At my store, it’s not like that. I want things to be comfortable.”
Klein purchased Exchanging Vows in 2013, and said she being part of Collingwood’s business world.
“I like that it’s a small town and retailers support each other,” said Klein, adding there are a lot of high-quality wedding vendors in the area that put on bridal shows in November and in the spring and have formed the Georgian Bay Wedding Society as a central resource for brides planning to get married in the area.
“All of us working together has really created a good wedding experience,” said Klein. “There’s lots of local talent.”
Though Klein missed the black-tie awards ceremony due to a winter storm, Exchanging Vows was honoured at the event, which took place at Sheraton Parkway North Hotel and Suites on Feb. 27.