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Rizik’s has been dressing D.C. women

Rizik’s has been dressing D.C. women since Teddy Roosevelt was president. It’s not stopping now

It wouldn’t have been surprising if Rizik’s had closed.

After 109 years in business, much of it from the corner of Connecticut Avenue and L Street in Northwest Washington, the family-owned fashion boutique had run out of family members who wanted to devote their professional lives to hemlines, alterations and the ever-changing moods of first-time brides. A good percentage of the store’s loyal customer base had retired, moved away or died. The Internet had upended the model for independent retail. Rizik’s was not a business with a bright, shining future. It was “challenged,” as one family member diplomatically described it.

But Rizik’s didn’t close. Despite the familial shifts, the cultural upheaval and the dying off, Rizik’s refused to go quietly into history.

Instead, at the end of July 2016, Rizik’s shuttered its doors. Not for good, a sign promised, but for a major renovation — one that dragged on and left more than a few people suspicious that the darkened interior was really just the beginning of the end. “I was not confident at all they’d reopen,” said customer Janet Janjigian.

But then, on April 17, Rizik’s returned. There was no party. No drumroll. The family just turned on the lights and unlocked the doors.

It wasn’t dramatic, but it was remarkable.

The store, originally called Rizik Brothers, opened at F and 15th streets in 1908, a time when life moved more slowly and with greater formality.

The Rizik brothers had come from Lebanon at the turn of the 20th century and established themselves as haberdashers importing lace from Europe. After saving a bit of seed money, they opened their own dress shop and began selling ready-to-wear, which was beginning to blossom in New York.

Rizik’s catered to the well-to-do, to women who had social clout and busy social calendars. The brothers became known for their attention to detail and their customer service. A woman in a pinch could walk into the boutique, buy an evening gown for a formal dinner later that same day, and have it altered in time to make the cocktail hour.

In its heyday, which lasted into the late 1980s, when gross sales were reportedly about $4 million a year, customers from Mamie Eisenhower to journalist Helen Thomas shopped there for professional wardrobes and inaugural ballgowns, wedding dresses and little pick-me-ups.

There was nothing edgy about Rizik’s. It was a store filled with glimmering chandeliers and soft love seats, deep pile carpeting and hushed tones. The day-to-day business was overseen by two second-generation sisters: Miss Renee and Miss Maxine, who even today have a quietly firm demeanor, but one that always allowed for this mantra: The customer is always right.

“If the customer says it’s black and you know it’s navy — it’s black,” says Maxine Rizik Tanous. “You never asked a customer her size. You never asked what she wanted to pay. You asked her what she wanted. And whatever she wanted, you gave it to her. You never let a customer go out disappointed.”

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The Story Behind Princess Diana's Iconic Wedding Dress

It's hard to believe that Princess Diana was still a teenager when she first headed into designer Elizabeth Emanuel's studio for her first wedding dress fitting, but the 19-year-old was already becoming the woman the world would watch walk down the aisle on her wedding day. And Emanuel, who now runs her own fashion line, is sharing exactly what it was like to work with the future princess.


It turns out that when the then-Lady Diana Spencer first called the studio, Emanuel made a mistake about her name–and was completely surprised when the king's fiancée walked in for that initial meeting. "There was instant recognition when she walked through the door," the designer shared, according to People.

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Emanuel and her husband David went on to create the iconic gown in complete secrecy, and Emanuel notes that their decision to make Diana's bridal train as long as possible was largely because "St. Paul's Cathedral is a really big area to fill." "She was just lovely, really kind of easy going," she said of the princess. "We never had any special instructions about how to make the wedding dress. That added a bit to the fun of it all, made it a bit of an adventure."

And as for the big day itself? That low-key approach remained consistent. Bridesmaid India Hicks shared that Diana wore jeans and watched TV while her tiara was placed on her head, and Emanuel recalls a similarly put-together princess. "She was incredibly together and wasn't panicking," the designer recalled. "But I was really worried about all things that could possibly go wrong. We'd taken smelling salts, glucose tablets–what if she feels faint? What if she passes out? Spills something down her skirt? I had this kind of horror that maybe the train would drop off. We sewed her into things, we pinned her into things."

Fortunately, the big moment passed without incident. "It's always been about a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis," Emanuel said. "And that is her story, really. She was emerging into a new world, a new life's adventure."

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Some West Texas merchants donate wedding for Air Force groom

White linens, blue flowers and period piano music from the 1940s filled the Cactus Hotel on Saturday for a donated wedding to remember.

The San Angelo Standard-Times reports as bride Sarah Davenport walked down the historic aisle, lined with flickering candles and rose petals, groom Jeffrey Mercado, an active-duty military member stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base, couldn't contain the wide smile on his face.

Although the Cactus Hotel holds countless weddings every year, this one was unique, because it was entirely cost-free for the bride and groom.

"Except for them buying their own personal items, like garters and toasting glasses, they haven't been out one penny," said Tinker Keeney, owner of local wedding-planning business Happily Ever After.

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Keeney, the organizer of the event, had been trying for several years to coordinate a donated wedding for a local military member, when the base put her in touch with Mercado and Davenport in November 2016.

"They had planned on getting married, but they couldn't afford much," Keeney explained. After hearing the couple's love story, and learning about Mercado's service in the military, Keeney selected the two as recipients for the free wedding.

"(Mercado) put his life totally on hold ... all he had was the service until he met her," Keeney said. "If they're going to put their life out there, risk their life for us ... why can't we do something for them?"

As Keeney began garnering support from local businesses, the community was more than willing to help.

Southwest Florist donated floral arrangements and bouquets, Eclipse Mobile DJ and Terry Mikeska supplied music, Kenny Blanek's Village Cafe catered the event, the Cactus Hotel donated space, and several other local businesses chipped in as well.

When Mercado and Davenport first heard they would receive the free wedding, they thought it was too good to be true.

"At first I thought, 'is this real?' I was very skeptical (because) it's a lot to do for someone. It's unheard of," Mercado said."Once I found out (it was real), I was very grateful that the community was able to do that for a military member."

When the bride saw the venue and decorations, which totaled about $20,000 in donations, she was "taken away. It was really beautiful. It was better than what I had imagined in my head."

At the wedding, guests were given toy soldiers, as tokens to remind them to "pray for our men and women."

The wedding also featured a Missing-In-Action ceremony, which included a table with five empty seats remaining untouched. The five hats resting on the table represented all branches of the military, and those members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Various items also rested untouched at the table, including a lemon, representing the bitterness of the prisoners-of-war, salt, to honor of the tears cried by family members, a rose, in remembrance of those lost, and a yellow ribbon, to signify that the military has not given up on them.

Approximately 130 individuals attended the wedding, and although it was formal, guests also danced, laughed and ate cake, all while dressed in attire from the1940s .

"There was not a place I could call home until I met you," Mercado said to Davenport during the couple's wedding vows.

Mercado currently serves as a medic in the Air Force and has been stationed at Goodfellow AFB for three years. Mercado met Davenport while dancing with friends when he first moved to San Angelo.

"I'm a workaholic ... and Sarah was a single parent at the time ... We were out dancing and I saw Sarah's friend who I know. Long story short, Sarah and I danced a few times, sat down to exchange numbers ... and went out on a date," Mercado explained.

To propose, Mercado cooked Davenport one of their favorite meals. "After dinner, he ... dropped down on one knee and said 'I love you and I love your kids. Will you please marry me?' I started crying and said 'Yes,'" Davenport said, smiling.

Mercado joined the military at 19 years old while living in New Jersey, and has been active-duty for the last 16 years. Although he has many military stories, his most memorable occurred while stationed overseas in Afghanistan.

When an injured man needed an emergency blood transfusion and the medics ran out of donated blood, Mercado gave his own blood for the patient.

"(My blood) was given right back to me to put in my patient," Mercado said. "I was able to tell him at the end that we'll be connected for life because (he has) some of my blood ... and he was very grateful."

"That was my most memorable moment in my entire career," Mercado added.

While he's been stationed in a variety of locations during his time in the service, Mercado said San Angelo has been the most hospitable.

"(San Angelo) has been one of the best places that I've served. To be honest, when I first got here, I was a bit skeptical about this place because I'm from a big city ... but everybody is so nice here and so grateful for our military and our police," Mercado said. "Let me tell you, I fell in love with this place ... and I will retire here."

For local businesses, the wedding was an opportunity to give back to members of the military.

"(Military members) are good to us ... and we should be good to them," said Karla Stemple, owner of Southwest Florist. "I just think it's the right thing to do."

Keeney, whose father served in World War II, felt personally invested in putting on the wedding, and hopes to give one annually to members of the military or individuals who have experienced personal tragedies.

"I hope that it shows that everybody has something they can do. (The sponsors) didn't have a million dollars to donate, but they had something they could do," Keeney said.

In a few weeks, when Mercado is given leave, the bride and groom will travel to the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon.

"I am thankful for everybody's kindness and for taking care of our service members. I've never seen that anywhere else in my life, so I'm very grateful to be (in San Angelo)," Mercado said.

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