For 25 years she has carefully selected the wedding, debutante and special occasion gowns and accessories that are featured at Joan Pillow Bridal Salon — formerly Impressions Bridal Salon — at 99 W. Paces Ferry Road.
“Every designer that’s of worth wants to be in my store,” Pillow said. “So I can pick and choose who I want to buy and carry. That’s a big deal.”
Lori Weil, vice president of bridal sales for Los Angeles-based designer Monique Lhuillier, can testify to Pillow’s claims.
“Joan is one of our top retailers in the world for Monique Lhuillier,” Weil said. “She’s one of our finest retailers in the world, and she’s one of our largest retailers in the world. She’s one of our most elite.”
She said the company has worked with Pillow for about the past 15 years and described her as the “quintessential professional.”
Pillow, a graduate of Neiman Marcus’ executive program, became a bridal shop owner after working in management for several years at retail stores in Chicago and Atlanta. She said she knew she wanted a position beyond assistant manager. Before becoming a shop owner, she was working in the bridal division of Mitchell’s Corp. — a formalwear company that is no longer in operation — in the Galleria in Cobb County.
“The president liked me, he hired me and ultimately sold me the business,” Pillow said. “He didn’t sell me the name. I picked a name. I bought it in ’89 and stayed in the Galleria and always knew I needed to be in Buckhead.”
She credits her success to hard work, being an involved business owner and hiring talented and trustworthy staff.
In addition to her Buckhead store, which she relocated to in 1991, Pillow opened a second bridal salon in Houston in 2009. Both stores were rebranded from Impressions to Joan Pillow Bridal Salon in 2011 after a similarly named manufacturing and retail company in Texas threatened copyright infringement, she said.
“The designers honestly prompted that change to this name, because they felt I was so well respected and my business was strong that I could brand myself,” Pillow said.
Along with Monique Lhuillier dresses, Pillow’s shops carry gowns from Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Naeem Khan and Anna Maier, among many others.
“The designers that we carry are only available in very select, few stores in the country,” Pillow said. “We deal with customers from a five-hour radius. We have a lot of customers from outside of Atlanta, because they can’t get what we sell anywhere.”
Weil said, “Girls go [to Pillow’s salon] for our label. They see us as a partner. They go looking for Monique Lhuillier, but they go to that fine store for it.”
With two and a half decades under her belt, Pillow said it was emotional for her as she prepared to celebrate the shop’s 25th anniversary Feb. 27.
“It makes you reflect on all the things that have gone on in 25 years,” she said.
Looking toward the future, Pillow said there is a possibility she could open a third shop someday on the West Coast, though it is not something in her short-term plans.
ON THE WEB: For more information about Joan Pillow Bridal Salon, visit joanpillowbridal.com.