Storybook Beginnings: The Journey of Storybook Ending Bridals

Happy Thursday! On today’s blog, we get to relive some fun moments of A Storybook Ending, including the big opening, more renovations, and an amazing team! Let’s dive in!

P.S-Be sure to read all the way to the end to check out some throw-back pictures from over the last 34 years


Part III: The Opening + Three Decades of Growth 

In November of 1989, after eleven months of relentless effort, A Storybook Ending Bridals finally opened its doors to the public. At first, Crystal was the only employee, and she eagerly served each bride that stepped foot into her store. Business hours were long, and Crystal served brides until 8pm most nights before making the 35 minute commute home to Miles. Less than 12 hours later, she would be getting ready to head back to the store to begin another day. Recognizing that this was not sustainable long-term, Crystal wisely adjusted her business hours while remaining open late one night a week for the convenience of her customers. She did not take appointments; rather, brides were able to walk in and be served on a “first-come-first-served” basis. This led to success for Storybook Ending, and they continued this model of service for three decades (until the COVID pandemic made appointments a necessity).  Another lasting pillar of Storybook Ending is their decision to remain closed on Sundays. At the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey, Crystal had the conviction to reserve Sundays for a day of rest. Her desire was that she and her employees would have the freedom to spend time with their families and worship at church, if they so chose. Even when local competitors decided to add business hours on Sundays, Crystal remained steadfast in her decision to only operate Monday through Saturday. She strongly believed that the Lord would bless her decision to set aside a day for rest, and Storybook’s longterm success is evidence that He has. 

A Quad-City Times article featuring the store’s opening 

As her business steadily began to gain traction, Crystal realized that she needed some assistance to better serve her brides. Her first part-time employee, Pam Watson, helped a few days a week with selling gowns. Things were going well, and Crystal was getting better acquainted with both the bridal industry and the DeWitt community. In 1991, Crystal and Neil’s family began to grow as they welcomed their first of four daughters. As a small business owner and new mom, Crystal initially thought it would be no problem to bring her newborn to the bridal store with her. She even set up a pack-n-play in the back room for naps and thought her daughter would cooperate with no issues. As you might guess, things did not work out quite like she hoped. Their first daughter was a light sleeper and rarely napped in the portable crib. Even on the rare occasion when she did fall asleep, she was quickly awoken by the ring of the phone or the chatter of excited customers. It didn’t take long for Crystal to realize that she needed a new plan. Thanks to good family friends in Miles, Crystal was able to leave her daughter(s) in their care while she served her brides at the store. Every once in a while, though, due to sickness or a change of schedule, she needed to bring her girls to work. To this day, her oldest daughters still laugh as they recall the chaos and pure bliss little girls experience when spending the day surrounded by beautiful dresses (though, as most moms can relate, Crystal definitely wasn’t laughing at the time!). Some of their fondest store memories include crawling through tunnels of dresses, hunting for loose sequins, beads, and pearls on the floor, and eating Blimpie’s sugar cookies at the tuxedo table. 

As word of mouth spread and Storybook’s customer-base grew, Crystal quickly identified her own strengths and weaknesses. She thrived with the back-end aspects of the business, such as bookwork and purchasing merchandise; however, she was not as skilled at selling the products. Early on, this even caused financial stress on the business, as she sometimes struggled to sell enough gowns to pay the monthly bills. With her lack of strong sales, the future of the store at one point was uncertain. A few years after opening, Crystal made a crucial decision to hire full-time employees who were gifted at selling. This was the turning point of Storybook Ending’s success. Two of the store’s essential employees over the last few decades have been a mother-daughter team, Myrna and Christi. The dynamic duo excelled at customer service and identifying what brides needed. Through the years, they have been praised for their ability to listen to their brides and select just the gown they were searching for—even when their brides did not realize it themselves. Since their hire, hundreds (maybe even thousands!) of brides have fond memories of working with Myrna and Christi. Due to their direct experience with brides, the expert consultants had a keen awareness of the styles and trends current brides were looking for. Together, Myrna, Christi, and Crystal would frequently travel to national bridal markets to view trending styles and select inventory for the upcoming seasons. Undoubtedly, the duo’s excellence and faithful service to brides played a vital role in Storybook’s success. When you visit Storybook Ending today, you will still be greeted with a warm smile from Christi, who is now the store’s manager. She continues to be an expert in the field and loves making her brides’ dreams come true. After serving with excellence for several decades, Myrna has since retired and enjoys spending time with her family (especially her great-grandchildren!). 

Myrna, Christi, and Crystal with the owners of Justin Alexander; Justin (left) and his father & company founder, Larry (right)

Another faithful member of the Storybook team has been their alterations expert, Patti. Though she has always been independent from Storybook Ending, she meets brides at the store and has provided alteration services for numerous years. Patti has met with hundreds of brides at Storybook to help sew bustles, tailor gowns, and even create completely unique gowns that perfectly match her brides’ wedding day dreams. Providing this “in-house” service has truly helped make Storybook Ending a “one-stop-shop” for everything a bride needs. 

Though they have always been located in DeWitt, Storybook has called a few different locations “home” throughout the years. When the business below the original location closed, Crystal decided to move down to the main level. Eventually, she moved back upstairs where she remained until the building was sold to the neighboring bank. Crystal then moved Storybook across the street to a very small storefront (DeWitt locals now know this building as home to the restaurant, Hall of Fame). Crystal was in that location for about a year until the town’s Ben Franklin store closed and became available for purchase in the early 2000s. Knowing she was reaching full capacity in her current tiny space, Crystal bought half of the building while the other half was turned into a hair salon and physical therapy office. Once again, Crystal was faced with the task of completely renovating a space to fit the needs of her customers and growing business. With the help of some contractor friends and her husband, the space slowly began to transform into a bridal salon. Much of the Gray family’s time was spent helping with the renovation, and Crystal’s daughters even remember playing hockey in the unfinished dressing rooms while their parents were working on the weekends (Neil was a PE teacher, so he was prepared to occupy the kids!). It wasn’t long before the space was finished and it was time to make the big move a few blocks down the street. 

With the help of some friends and her husband, Crystal’s entire store was carried, item by item, down the street to the new, spacious location. Onlookers surely were amused by the crew’s efforts, and one of the large bridal mirrors was even shattered during their short travels when it accidentally hit a bump—oops! In the grand scheme of things, it was a small price to pay for having a new, larger space! The new location provided ample space for the growing bridal store. There were three large mirror stations dedicated to serving the numerous brides who would visit on a given day, and one room was strictly reserved for bridesmaids. In the downstairs area, the Storybook team had a large storage space for checking in inventory, storing gowns, and pressing dresses ready to be worn by beautiful brides. Eventually, a space was even finished in the basement dedicated to alterations, tuxedo rentals, and clearance gowns. When the next door physical therapist’s office became available a few years later, Crystal immediately purchased the space and transformed it into an entire room for bridesmaids and mother’s dresses. During the fall and winter, the space also featured homecoming and prom dresses for high schoolers.

Within the last ten years, Crystal was given the opportunity to purchase the last remaining part of the original Ben Franklin store when the next door hair salon closed. For this final space, Crystal had a desire to connect it to the bridal store and transform it into a women’s clothing boutique as well as a coffee and wine shop. She called the new business “Urbanity,” and her vision was to expand her bridal customers’ shopping experience while also providing a store that would benefit the everyday local DeWitt community. Now, while waiting for their bridal appointment, all members of the bridal party have the opportunity to relax and enjoy their time shopping for the latest clothing trends while sipping on a glass of wine or cup of coffee. In the last 34 years, Storybook has become more than just a bridal salon. Through Crystal’s vision and determination, she has transformed her store into the ultimate “girls’ day” destination for brides, their wedding party, and local community members, alike.  

To be continued… 

(Check back next week for the final installment of this mini-series!)

P.S—Take a look at some more fun throwback photos below! 



Crystal’s very first store with gowns spread along the rack. 

Crystal modeling one of the bridal gowns from her first inventory line.

Store advertisements and bridal show models. 

The newly renovated Ben Franklin store. 

A private viewing mirror for brides and their guests. 

A large selection of bridal gowns for brides to choose from.

The original “designer limited” room. 

Crystal, Christi, and Myrna—co-workers and friends! 

Crystal, Christi, and Myrna waiting for the style show at the Chicago bridal market.

Myrna, Christi, and Crystal at the Chicago Bridal Market. 

Meeting Tony Bowls, one of the designers they carried for prom dresses. 

Crystal excitedly showing off one of the hottest prom trends of the season—polka dots! 

The physical therapy office-turned into a room for bridesmaids and mothers. 

Crystal’s newest addition—a clothing store called, Urbanity. 

Time to renovate again—new carpet and paint! 

The latest facelift for Storybook in the last few years!

Still plenty of space for guests at each bridal viewing area! 

Hundreds of gowns, ready for new Storybook brides!