Families, personal service keep J&B Bridals in vogue

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – Jim and Barb Resh have outfitted thousands of people, building relationships as lasting as the ones at the core of the celebrations for which they provide formal apparel.

“It’s not about the transaction. It’s really not,” said Jim, the “J” of J&B Bridals at 136 S. Main St. in Chambersburg. “It is a family. I love people, and so does Barb.”

After being in business for more than 40 years, the Reshes have worked with seemingly countless brides, grooms and teens eager to make an impression at their proms. They have served multiple generations of some families.

Jim recalled with a snicker an encounter at his store with the mother of a girl seeking a prom dress.

“My God, are you still here?” she asked him.

Yes, the co-owners of J&B Bridals are still there, at the same location where they started the business in 1978 selling sportswear and designer jeans in what is now the middle of three buildings they occupy. Among the brands they offered were Calvin Klein, Bill Blass and Bobbie Brooks, and their racks also contained plenty of monogrammed sweaters and career wear.

In the early 1980s, they slowly transitioned to dressier fashions.

“We really felt there was a need in the area,” said Jim, 65. “We kind of quietly became all bridal and formal wear.”

Representatives from the buying office suggested adding a line of prom apparel, and soon, people were ordering from it, not only for high school rites of passage, but as bridesmaid dresses.

Twenty years ago, the Reshes bought the building next to their original site for the tuxedo and prom portion of their business. There is a second floor on the bridal portion of their space, which is used for offices and alterations, and also provides room for people to model formal wear for their friends and family.

“We lose each other a lot,” Barb said of the total of 14,000 square feet encompassed by J&B Bridals.

Jim said the back entrance for J&B and the parking lot have allowed the business to expand over the decades.

“It’s been cool how things have grown,” Jim said. “The area’s been really good to us. Great people.”

Sam Thrush, president of Downtown Chambersburg Inc., noted that J&B’s reputation has made it more than a store.

“Their customer service and the product they offer has made them a retail destination … a bright spot for folks getting formal wear,” Thrush said.

He sees opportunities for other downtown businesses to do some collaborative marketing with the Reshes to show the public how they complement each other.

J&B has experienced transformations not only in its physical space, but its merchandise.

“There have been huge transitions” in fashion, Jim said.

Barb, 63, remembers when derby-style hats were in style for brides. And in the 1980s, when bigger was better in terms of designer accents, big bows on the backs of dresses were in vogue, as well as puffy sleeves and mounded shoulder pads. After Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles in 1981, dresses with long trains like she wore were all the rage.

Then, the trend shifted to simple and subtle, particularly when destination weddings gained popularity. The Reshes have just rolled with the changes, like a bolt of fabric unfolding on a cutting table.

“We try to really be cognizant that you have to listen to what your customers want,” Jim said.

“You have to be willing to change with it,” added Barb, his wife of 43 years.

The shifting shopping scene

The Hagerstown, Md., natives wanted to start their own business, and Jim’s dad spotted the site in Chambersburg. They moved there and raised their two daughters in the borough. Jackie Moore, 43, lives in Chambersburg and works with her parents. Jami Wagner, 38, lives in Denver. Both have two daughters.

When J&B opened, the downtown retail scene was bustling.

“Downtown then was THE shopping district,” Jim said.

He and Barb recalled at least four shoe stores downtown and several jewelry stores, as well as Bon-Ton, McCrory’s, Newberry’s and Toby’s. They remembered Chambersburg Days, when people lined up an hour before stores opened, in anticipation of the sales awaiting inside.

“People couldn’t wait to get in for the bargains,” he said.

The Reshes felt the pinch when malls opened in the area, but now, Jim said it seems like there is more of a movement toward shopping at smaller businesses again.

“The whole environment has changed … and the whole focus of retail,” he said. “The opportunity is here for downtown.”

He and Barb exude that optimism, despite having to close their doors at 8 p.m. March 16 due to state orders for nonlife-sustaining businesses to shutter in attempts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. At the end of the previous month, the business was poised to have its best year ever and tuxedo sales were on the rise again after three years of losses.

Moore has increased the store’s social-media presence using the website (, Facebook and Instagram, which has been vital to keeping in touch with the public.

“You have to over communicate right now,” Jim said.

J&B Bridals reopened June 1 by appointment only, ready to welcome customers and employees back inside, while keeping health and sanitary considerations in mind. In the months they were closed, the Reshes kept in touch with their clients, many of whom rescheduled or canceled the events for which they wanted assistance with bridal gowns, bridesmaid dresses, prom dresses, accessories, menswear and more.

“People are really itching to get back in,” he said. “It’s going to be a new way of doing business. “We’ll be fine. …It’s going to be good.”

The formal wear realm has been hit hard, though, and Jim noted grimly that a competitor in Hagerstown did not weather the COVID-19 storm.

“Our industry is struggling,” he said.

So are its offshoots, including hotels, event centers, florists and entertainers such as disc jockeys.

“It’s just like a ripple effect,” Barb said.

What’s in store?

With a loyal regional customer base and people trekking from as far away as New Jersey and Canada for J&B’s formal attire, the Reshes are confident their sales will bounce back.

“There’s always going to be weddings. There’s always going to be proms,” Jim said.

But the leadership will eventually change for the store that was the first in America to debut Kleinfeld Bridal’s designer line in 2008. The New York City store was made more famous by being featured in “Say Yes To The Dress” on TLC.

The couple is working on a transition plan to turn the business over to Moore so they can continue to enjoy their good health in retirement.

“The next generation of any business belongs to people with fresh ideas,” said Jim, who was named the 2017 Business Person of the Year by the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce.

In some cases, that next generation is related to the one that started a business. Jim recalled when his wife, as well as four or five other business owners, were pregnant at the same time. Some of those families still own businesses downtown, including the Lyonses and Ludwigs.

“The downtown is comprised of families,” Jim said.

For more information about J&B Bridals or to schedule an appointment, go to; call 800-301-1935; or email [email protected]. The business can be found on Facebook and Instagram.

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