Walking into the Wedding Center in Commack, is a bit like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole, only instead of landing in Wonderland, you arrive in Weddingland.
The store, which has been around for 47 years, is filled from top to bottom with dresses, favors, flowers, accessories, rings, cake toppers and more.
Owner Bob Wells is a bit like the Mad Hatter, minus the floppy ears and funny hat. He, at 74 years old, has the energy of a kid in a candy store. Wells emphasizes that his store is not a dress shop, but as its names spells out, a wedding center. “We take the place of 14 stores. The whole secret to our success is that we own everything.”
It’s true. From gowns and tuxedos, to invitations, flowers and photography, a couple can find everything at the store, excluding the venue and church.
Wells admits that the store is a bit cluttered, but that’s mainly because it’s filled to the brim with every wedding detail one can possibly imagine. “If you can name one request I haven’t heard in 47 years, I’d be amazed,” he said.
Wells wasn’t always in the wedding business, and it was a far cry from his background as a mathematician working at Grumman, but when it came time for his own wedding to his wife, Bobbi (yes, that’s Bob and Bobbi), he decided to create his own wedding invitations using a book from his father’s printing business. After the invitations went out, he soon began getting requests from friends and coworkers to do their party invitations, which he would send out at a discount, and his budding wedding business got its start.
One day, a friend asked if he also did party favors. He immediately said yes, even though he never had. “The next day, I had party favors,” Wells said with a laugh.
“I’m a hustler, but I’m a nice hustler. You can’t be a laid back individual and do this job,” he said.
Bit by bit, from invitations and favors, to tuxedos and gowns, the business, which was quickly outgrowing his Commack home, made the move to a basement store under House of Bagels. When the gowns began spilling out of the space, it was time to expand to the building directly behind it, which is when the store became The Wedding Center.
For years, Wells would go to work every day and then come home to the wedding business seven days a week.
“As a kid growing up in Brooklyn with nothing, I always had a job or two. I’ve always had this drive in me,” he said.
Now that Wells is retired from Grummen, he works at the Wedding Center seven days a week, with Bobbi and their daughter, Carrie. Wells doesn’t consider it work though.
“I love what I do and that’s important because the customers see that,” he said.
Wells guarantees the lowest prices, which means he doesn’t necessarily make his living off of any particular item, but from customers who purchase multiple things from him.
“Even though we make less on the item, if you buy a few things from us we make money,” he said.
One point he emphasized is the ease of getting all of one’s wedding needs in one place. “The best part is that, the week of the wedding – one phone call,” he said.
Wells said that part of what makes his business stand out, is how hard his staff will work to make someone happy.
Two years ago, he met the family of an elderly woman who was getting married. She was living with Multiple Sclerosis and completely bedridden. To make her wedding dream come true, Wells sent his bridal staff to the Gurwin Assisted Living facility, where she was a resident, and had her fitted for a dress in her home. He did the same thing for a grandfather whose daughter was getting married and needed his tuxedo fitted.
His favorite part of his job though, is helping couples create their happily ever after story.
“I love what I do. I love helping young people. I really get a lot of satisfaction out of that,” he said.