Dave Gaffke of Complete Bridal Salon fits Jeanna Piunti with a new dress. Piunti's original dress was destroyed in a fire at Eva's Bridal in Oak Lawn.
While investigators searched on Thursday for the cause of a fire that ravaged an Oak Lawn strip mall a day earlier, including Eva's Bridal, many brides-to-be were searching for new wedding dresses.
At least for the latter, help has come from other area businesses and women willing to make donations.
"This whole experience hasn't been easy because I'm doing everything on my own, and then it's like one thing after another and now this," said Jeanna Piunti, whose wedding day is just nine days away.
Dave Gaffke, the owner of Complete Bridal Salon in West Dundee is trying to come to the rescue, offering to loan any of his 260 styles for free to any bride affected by the fire.
"Is it the exact same gown that they purchased from Eva's? No. But it's still going to be beautiful," he said.
The owner of Eva's Bridal, Ronia Ghusein, said she and her staff started Thursday morning meeting with brides and their families in the backseats of cars in the parking lot. The first order of business was finding a dress for a woman getting married on Saturday.
The store came through, finding an identical dress that will be shipped overnight.
"After we do some slight alterations, she'll be a beautiful bride on Saturday, as planned," said Ghusein.
She said store operations have moved into a nearby restaurant's party room and that dress designers and manufacturers were working to help them help the brides.
Several South Suburban salon employees have offered to donate wedding gowns to Eva's customers, including Totally Tan in Orland Park and Enve Salon and Spa near Oak Lawn.
Enve is also offering a "beautiful disaster" special of $100 for hair and makeup.
"We do a lot of breast cancer donations and this is just so awful and we want to do everything we can to help," said spokeswoman Jen Lajoie.
Another bridal store in Michigan City, Ind., Paris House of Bridal, has also come forward with assistance, offering free dresses for Eva's customers for those whose wedding date are "upcoming within the next few weeks."
"As a bridal salon that suffered the same misfortune in the past, we understand what a devastating ordeal it is for all parties," said shop spokeswoman Destiny Stone.
For Piunti, her first day of searching didn't bring a dress that seemed to be made for her, but she expressed gratitude for those who have come forward to help.
"It's just unbelievable that people are going to these lengths," said Piunti.