It took awhile, but Eva’s Bridals will reopen in a fresh new storefront in Oak Lawn after at 95th Street and Cicero Avenue last November.
Ronia Ghusein, 32, the third-generation owner of the salon, signed a lease this week for a space in the new strip mall on the 5200 block of West 95th Street, across the street from the Oak Lawn Public Library.
The new Eva’s Bridals joins the and in the strip mall. Other spacious storefronts, as well as a shuttered restaurant, are available for leasing in the mall.
“I did everything I could to stay in Oak Lawn,” Ghusein said, “but I didn’t want to do it under the gun.”
Ghusein said she started looking for a new location immediately after the fire. A realtor showed up and handed Ghuesin a business card as she and her parents stood in the parking lot behind the old store watching their life’s work go up in flames.
Instead, they ended up renting a temporary space at 10808 S. Cicero Ave. The family also opened a store in Tinley Park in January so that Eva’s could maintain exclusivity with its European designers.
The new space has everything they need—especially fire sprinklers— Ghusein said.
“It’s a brand-new construction. It doesn’t have a floor yet, but we’ll be able to build from the ground up,” she added.
Ghusein’s grandmother, the original Eva, started the first Eva’s Bridals in Chicago in 1964. Eva worked as a seamstress for the Chicago store’s owner. One morning as she showed up for work, the store was locked with no sign of the owner.
“The landlord was there and asked her if she knew how to run a bridal store,” Ghusein said. “He handed her the keys and she was in business.”
Ghusein’s grandmother’s couture salon quickly gained a reputation for its exquisite customer service and attention to the smallest detail. Because of the salon’s popularity, other Eva's bridal stores sprang up around the Chicago area, though they weren’t affiliated with Eva’s Bridals of Oak Lawn.
“My grandmother never had the name trademarked,” Ghusein said.
Ghusein’s parents, Nancy and Sam, took over the salon and relocated to 4811 W. 95th St. in 1982. Ghusein remembers being picked up from Papoose Childcare Center up the street and staying with her parents at the store until it closed at 9 p.m.
“I’d lug boxes and try on gowns,” Ghusein recalled of her childhood on Oak Lawn’s business corridor.
Since the fire, Ghusein and her staff have been delivering brides’ dresses pre-ordered before the fire from its tiny temporary location in an older strip mall on Cicero Avenue.
Although the temporary Oak Lawn store’s main focus is delivering and altering wedding gowns that were ordered over a year ago, some clients are still insisting on buying dresses.
“We actually have increased our client base … buying based on photographs and (knowing) what they want,” Ghusein said. “They trust the name.”
In January, the family opened a store in Tinley Park at 8219 S. Harlem Ave., taking over a space from another salon that had gone out of business. The family intends to keep the Tinley Park store, where Ghusein’s parents and brother work.
“Designers were sending inventory a week after the fire,” Ghusein said. “We needed a place to store dresses and host in-store events until we knew what we needed in Oak Lawn.”
During the long search for a new Oak Lawn location, Ghusein watched La Joli Mode, one of four bridal salons in the village, open less than a block from the former Eva’s burned-out storefront.
“We knew another bridal salon was going in there before the fire, we just didn’t know who,” Ghusein said.
Ghusein has continued with her buying trips to Europe, searching for the designers “that you can’t find anywhere else.” Delivery of next year’s designs to Oak Lawn has been delayed until the new store is set.
Depending on how fast the permitting process goes with the village, Ghusein said it would take between 35 and 40 days to finish the build-out. She expects the reborn Eva’s to be open before the end of the year.
“It’s important to keep things looking fresh and new,” Ghusein said. “We plan to stay in Oak Lawn and be a staple in the bridal world for a long time to come. That was our intention before and after the fire.”
Seven months later, Ghusein still can’t believe that the fire happened. She first noticed something amiss when the lights began flickering over her desk. Fire investigators believe the fire started in the store’s attic and was electrical in nature.
“Even now it doesn’t seem real. I was the first person who saw the fire,” Ghuesin said. “I didn’t even smell smoke until I was outside in the parking lot.”
Beshanda Spencer contributed to this report.