Destroyed bridal shop sets up hotline

November 18, 2010 (OAK LAWN, Ill.)

Flames destroyed all but six of the gowns in Eva's Bridals in Oak Lawn and damaged four other adjacent businesses Wednesday afternoon.

The owner of Eva's Bridal has set up a hotline to try to help affected brides: 630-747-1911.

The owner came to the store Thursday and said she is overwhelmed but claims she is doing her best to make sure that the weddings go on.

"It kills me. I haven't slept or eaten. And you know what, it's not even about me. It's about our customers. It's about what happens to their dresses, to their weddings. I'll do everything I can for them, everything I can, I'll exhaust every option I can," said owner Ronia Ghusein.

Investigators continued to work to figure out what sparked the fire, which they haven't classified as suspicious.

"The employees indicated they had seen smoke coming from the attic area, so we're taking that information along with other information to put together our cause," said Chief George Sheets, Oak Lawn Fire Deaprtment

"We have sewn in crystals and the bottom very full. It was gorgeous. She would be exquisite. Hopefully, we'll get something comparable," said Peggy Mason, mother of a bride.

Mason said daughter Maggie is getting married Saturday and is now desperately scouring the Chicago area for a new dress.

"Just looking for that little glimmer of hope that maybe, you know, there was a miracle out there. But when I got here, there's no miracle," said Mason.

The owner may be able to reorder for brides with more time. Mason said she's heard from the owner, but others are still waiting.

"Maybe the owner of the store could respond in a better way and have someone answering the phone and responding a little quickly," said Linda Wright, mother of a bride.

The owner says she has opened a satellite office nearby. She says the best thing they can do is call the hotline.

"There are no words to describe how we feel about today's tragic event and fire," a statement on the store's website from Wednesday says. "Our main concern is our brides and their gowns."

"Over the last 45 years we have built excellent relationships with all of our designers and we are working hand in hand with them to deliver your gowns on time," the statement continued. "We are just as devastated as anyone as this has been our home for over 30 years. We are grateful for no physical injuries and are saddened by the emotional toll this may have on everyone."

Gowns went up in flames just days and weeks before some weddings. Now, dozens of brides are scrambling for new dresses before saying "I do." Jessica Reidl is one of them. She hugged the owner of Eva's Bridal after learning she will have a gown for her Saturday wedding after all.

"I am just so happy," said Reidl.

Bride Monica Sera, whose wedding is just a month away, wasn't so lucky. Her fitting was supposed to be Thursday.

"My dress was here. It's gone now," said Sera.

The fire apparently began in the attic of Eva's Bridal, located in a strip mall on West 95th Street near Cicero. Some customers were inside the strip mall when the fire broke out.

"You could see the dresses go up in flames. All you could see was the wiring going up, too, and it was a significant fire," said witness Tyler Schrum.

"We had heavy fire blowing from the front of the building. Again, this is a major thoroughfare at 95th and Cicero," said Chief Sheets.

Sheets said they have some information in the investigation but would not release it to the public.

More than 100 firefighters were called to battle the blaze. The flames consumed the bridal shop and the hundreds of gowns inside. The fire then spread to the RadioShack nearby, destroying that store. It also damaged three neighboring businesses. While no one was hurt, it has dampened the dream weddings of many brides.

"I'm very scared. I'm hoping to still have my order," said Eva's Bridal customer Laura Tracy.

Only six wedding dresses remained, sitting on a table outside of the store as officials search the debris Thursday.

Casey Aulisa had gone to pick up her dress for her wedding Friday but found dozens of firefighters working to put out the fire instead.

"I just wanted to look like that princess for one day. It's hard," said Aulisa. "I had it custom made. It was like my aunt's. It was lacy and just beautiful. I haven't seen anything like it. Me and my mom have been out looking, and it's really hard."

The store's website says the owners are working to quickly open a satellite location nearby and will update its website with new information as it becomes available.

A boutique in southwest Mokena wants to help brides who lost their dresses find replacements.

"Anyone who decides to donate the dress or put it on consignment, they can just drop it off and we'll get all your information. If you are a bride and looking to come in and see something on the floor that is going to work for you, that you can live with and that will make your day special, we can go ahead," said Lauren McKeague, Pink Slip Dress boutique.

Eva's Bridal Hotline: 630-747-1911,

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