Something old, something new

Mary Gamberdella, ’75, draws on Loyola's core values for bridal business success

Forty years ago, Mary Gamberdella, ’75, teamed up with her mother, Rita, to launch Gamberdella, a bridal salon in Towson, Md. The dress shop that started in a 400-square-foot space is now a thriving business that fills a renovated 150-year-old house in Towson, Md.

Gamberdella recently spoke with Loyola magazine for a Q&A about her business and her Jesuit education from Loyola.

Mary and Brian hugging each other with fabric draped in the background.

How has your Loyola education helped you manage Gamberdella?

I use my Loyola degree every day by talking and listening to brides. I studied psychology at Loyola, and I counsel the brides to figure out what they want for their wedding days. I’ve learned through my experiences and through my Loyola education that you have to be patient and try to understand what people are going through. The core values I learned while at Notre Dame Preparatory School and Loyola taught me how to be kind, and that has served me well.

What do you love most about your job?

That’s easy: the people. I love meeting new people and maintaining relationships with brides I’ve helped in the past. I’m starting to see clients, who I sold dresses to many years ago returning their daughters to purchase their wedding gowns.

How are you creating an experience for brides-to-be?

When I wait on customers, I want to learn who they are and what they like. It’s a selling aid, a mental aid, and adds a personal touch.

Through the more than 40 years of owning a bridal store, I’ve changed myself—and the store—quite a few times. When my mother and I first started, brides would come in with their mothers and pick dresses. Now brides come in and want an experience.

White wedding dress in facing out onto the street from the shopping window.

We recently renovated the store to accommodate the changing times. We have screens for the brides to FaceTime with relatives and friends who can’t attend in person. We also have a green screen where brides can wear their wedding dress and envision themselves at the beach or in a chapel. It’s a fun way to complete the bridal experience by being at a place that resembles their venue. We serve champagne and aim to create a positive and fun experience for the bride and her group.

It’s fun to evolve as a business and grow with the changing brides. It keeps me young, because I am always around young people. I thought I might retire, but I love what I do, and this has always been a family business. I recently teamed up with my cousin, Brian Rogers, and we are having great fun together.

What are your hobbies and interests?

When I thought about retiring, I thought to myself, Gamberdella is my interest and hobby. I spend a lot of time at the shop, and I love what I do. I do have a house on the Jersey Shore, and I love going there and sitting on the beach when I have free time.

Two chairs flank a large, ornate mirror. In the distant double reflection, a client tries on a dress.

What advice would you give to a bride-to-be?

The best advice I have is to relax and enjoy, because picking out a wedding dress and planning your wedding should be fun. So many girls get nervous, and we strive to help them have a good time at Gamberdella. The key is to have fun and make people happy because it comes back to you. I’m a big believer in that.

What are some tips for brides who are trying on wedding gowns for the first time?

Come with a budget in mind. We take care of everyone at Gamberdella. We have a wide range of dresses that start at $1,000 and go up from there. We want everyone to leave happy and comfortable with their decision.

Be prepared and have a vision. Shopping for a wedding dress should be a memorable experience. We start by looking at images the bride brought and go from there.

Wedding dress on a mannequin in front of a mirror.

 

Alterations are very important. If a shop can’t alter things, that is a huge misstep. You need a place that will do alterations. At Gamberdella, we do all our alterations on-site.

What advice would you give to current Loyola students?

Do things that make you happy and work hard. I work six to seven days a week, but it doesn’t seem like work. Try to find something that makes you happy, no matter what you do... whether it’s psychology, accounting, or business, you need to find joy and fulfillment in your work. I’d also say to keep the principles that Loyola teaches you close.

Photos courtesy of Mary Gamberdella, ’75.