Bridal doyenne Deborah Van Cleve is expecting a few hundred well-healed movers and shakers to join her as she marks a milestone of 35 years in business with a very special guest Carson Kressley
In the beginning, the Van Cleve accessories boutique was born into a 100 square-foot springhouse in Phoenixville, Pa. It was an exciting adventure for Deborah Van Cleve, a Houston, Texas transplant to the Delaware Valley. The entrepreneur had previously worked in the design business, but knew that moving into retail would be a natural progression in her career.
Since moving to Philadelphia, Van Cleve has been known as a visionary with a “go big or go home” attitude. It only took a few years for her to move her accessories boutique into a slightly larger space in Malvern, which allowed her to add sportswear to her collection, and then to her iconic location in Paoli on Lancaster Avenue, The Van Cleve Collection became a mainstay, continuing her story on the Main Line — where her business was housed for 20 years. But after moving into the larger space, she knew she wanted more. So, she went to New York to seek out gorgeous evening dresses. It was then that Van Cleve Evening was born, which remains a staple in the business today.
In 2008, the building next door became available, which allowed Van Cleve to add a bridal section — against anyone else’s advice. After a minimal renovation, The Wedding Pavilion was born. Van Cleve’s Wedding Pavilion offered her clientele a chance to speak with outside vendors from various facets of the industry, which helped the business stand out amongst a throng of regional competitors.
When the economy crashed in 2009, all U.S. retail took a deep dive, and the impact that could have heavily affected the company Not one to be dismissed, Deborah realized that she needed to change the trajectory of the store to a degree, but all of her vendor partners were struggling, so she rethought the business and went full tilt into the bridal arena. In 2015 she found the space that offered her the ability to create her vision — a warm, palatial bridal mecca, which she turned into a luxurious haven for brides and their parties to experience what no one was doing on the Main Line, which allowed Van Cleve to grow even larger and provide her clientele with a wider choice of options for both bridal and mothers of both the brides and grooms.
In 2022, Deborah’s biggest and boldest move is literally coming off the heels of Covid-19. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Deborah has expanded into another 3,000 square feet, providing her with the largest bridal boutique on the Main Line, with 10,000 square feet in total. Since the opening of the expansion in October, Deborah has now taken another entitled ” The Jewel Box that will encompass
Her clientele will be thrilled to see options in various price points, as her business is built on customer service and care. New lines are conducive in today’s market, and the expansion allows her a further reach for all ages. She will also be offering evening wear separates that provide the customer more purchasing power and flexibility. “The store has come full circle, we made it through one of the hardest times in recent retail history, and if you had asked me this over a year ago would I have never done this,” said Deborah. “I would have said ‘you were crazy’”. Along with the new lines come new accessories that will ignite excitement with her clientele. In 2022 Deborah will celebrate 35 years in business and has stood the test of time and weathered many a storm, a true testament to the enterprise spirit along being a woman owned business .