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Association of Wedding Gown Specialists Celebrates 25th Anniversary

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Kermit Engh with Jack Barth
Association of Wedding Gown Specialists President Kermit Engh (left) presents Ken Grippi, Dependable Cleaners, Boston, with the Jack Barth Memorial Award of Excellence.

Staff Writer |

TAMPA, Fla. — Members of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists met here last month to celebrate the group’s 25th anniversary, elect new officers, and participate in presentations with wedding industry experts.

The nonprofit trade group, with members located in the United States, Canada, Ecuador, Mexico and South Africa, specializes in gown cleaning and preservation.

A highlight of the conference was the presentation of the annual Jack Barth Memorial Award of Excellence. Initiated by Linda Stokes-Barth in remembrance of her late husband’s achievements in the drycleaning industry, the award recognizes a member for outstanding contributions and service to the association and its members.

This year’s honoree, Ken Grippi of Dependable Cleaners in Boston, began his career 45 years ago with his father at Beacon Cleaners. Beacon merged with Dependable Cleaners in 1972, and Grippi is currently Dependable’s technical training consultant and preservation and restoration expert. A member of the association since 2003, Grippi serves as national training director.

Featured speakers during the conference included Sonny Ganguly, chief marketing officer of WeddingWire.com; Jeff and Stephanie Padovani, who specialize in creative bridal marketing; Rick Brewer, author and long-time wedding professional; and Chris Jaeger, national bridal marketing and sales expert.

Ganguly has led WeddingWire.com to premier wedding website status with more than 200,000 reviewed vendors, and he offered predictions for the future of electronic media. Noting that teens currently text on average 121 times a day, he foresees texting becoming so common that couples may someday even exchange texted wedding vows.

Businesses must now make the most of all available social media, Ganguly says, in order to promote their websites successfully as search engines favor sites active in venues such as Facebook and YouTube.

The Padovanis offered ideas for capturing more brides online, overcoming price objections, and learning to take advantage of the principles of influence and likability. Brewer reinforced the idea that priorities, not price, determine what brides do.

Conversion is the best measure of an effective website, says Jaeger. Divide the number of visitors to your website by half, and at least 10% of that number should call you as a result of visiting your website.

Association President Kermit Engh of Omaha Lace and Fashion Cleaners announced incoming members of the board of directors: John-Claude Hallak of Hallak Cleaners in New York and New Jersey; Polly Nemec of Treasured Garment Restoration and St. Croix Cleaners in Stillwater and St. Paul, Minn.; and David Whitehurst of Champion Wedding Gown Specialists in Birmingham, Ala.

Members who retired from the board are Joe Lancaster of Coral Gables La Salle Cleaners in Coral Gables, Fla., and Dave Matthews of Janet Davis Cleaners in Berkley, Mich.

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