The owners of A Southern Wedding, Linda and Jerry Nail stand in front of the store this morning. The couple will close their doors in January after 31 years. Photo by: Lee Adams/Dispatch Staff
December 17, 2012 11:45:48 AM
When women get engaged, chances are they already have the perfect wedding planned out in their minds. While little boys are playing animated games of cops and robbers, countless little girls spend their Saturday afternoons playing bride.
When those little girls grow into women, they turn to a local bridal boutique for the perfect Southern wedding.
Linda and Jerry Nail have been turning little girls' fantasy weddings into reality for more than 30 years. At the end of this month, they will close their doors.
Linda and Jerry Nail purchased A Southern Wedding in 1981. Married since 1967, the pair started as an unlikely duo for the wedding business.
Originally from Grenada, the newlyweds moved to Columbus when Jerry Nail started working for American Bosch in 1968.
He dabbled in photography as a part-time business until 1973 when he opened Jerry Nail Photography. In 1980, he was a part of the very first bridal fair in Columbus.
A Southern Wedding had only been open for around eight months when the original owners were transferred out of state. They approached the Nails about buying the business and, seemingly overnight, Linda and Jerry Nail were in the bridal business.
"They just called and asked if we wanted to buy a business," Linda Nail said. "We did."
The boutique business was first located in an old carriage house of an ante-bellum home on 11th Street North. The Nails moved from that location after one year to a store front on Highway 182.
When the old Pryor's department store closed its downtown location in 1992, A Southern Wedding moved to its final destination on Fifth Street South.
The Nails expanded the business to include not only wedding dresses, but formal wear for proms and pageants. Jerry Nail operated his photography business upstairs while Linda Nail ran the bridal boutique downstairs.
In more than 30 years of business, the Nails have put an emphasis on customer service and a knack for making every woman feel like she is the most beautiful bride in the world.
Countless women have bought their wedding gowns from the Nails and Linda speaks fondly of outfitting generations of brides.
"So many people have told me when they've brought their daughters in, 'Oh you did my wedding too,'" she said, smiling as she recalled the thousands of women she has dressed in exquisite gowns.
While the Nails have been as much of a fixture to downtown as the Tennessee Williams home, Linda insists it's time for them to retire. She has a back injury that will require surgery and as she and Jerry move into their mid-60s, Linda said they would like a chance to enjoy their grandchildren.
"(The business) has been our whole married life,'' she said. "We've worked with brides and we've loved it, but we're looking forward to spending time with our family and grandkids and just slowing down."
Although she can't count how many brides she has helped over the years, Linda said the loyalty of her customers has meant more to her than she could ever explain.
"I've received flowers, sweet notes and little mementos over the years," she said. "It's really touching."
While the Nails are looking forward to retirement, Linda Nail said she and her husband will miss being part of such a joyous event in someone's life.
"We've met so many people that we would have never known before had we not been in that business," she said. "I'll miss the joy of helping a bride -- being a part of a bride's happy life event.
"Even if it's not a bride, if it's a prom or pageant, that's still a happy occasion that I got to have a small part of. I appreciate the loyalty, support, the friendship. I appreciate 31 years."
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah
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