Updated: 11/18/10 11:11 a.m.
OAK LAWN, Ill. (CBS) – Nervous brides and bridesmaids are desperate for answers as they scramble for Plan B, after one of the oldest bridal shops in the country went up in flames in Oak Lawn.
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The perfect wedding for Ashley Kuhl went up in smoke when the bridal shop brurned.
“I guess I just feel kind of shocked. It’s just really sad,” Kuhl said.
She and others say it’s hard to look at home video of the fire and the smoke.
Her mother couldn’t hold back tears.
“All the girls, and all the time, and all the investment, and just, it’s beautiful,” she said.
The third-generation family owned business is an institution in Oak Lawn. But now, a pile of charred debris is all that remains.
Fire officials say four other nearby businesses were damaged including a Radio Shack and a Chiro-Med. But it was the bridal store fire that brought the heartbreak.
Brides-to-be and their loved ones have been showing up to see the damage for themselves, hoping somehow their dresses survived the fire, but many are not finding the answers they were looking for.
“It’s my daughter’s wedding, and it’s one of the biggest moments in her life as well as mine,” said Linda Wright, mother of a bride.
Peggy Mason says her daughter Maggie’s dress took six months to make and she was looking forward to wearing it as she walked down the aisle Saturday, but the dress was destroyed in the blaze. They are hoping they can find a replacement in time.
“She’s distraught. She’s terrible. But, you know, it’s a dress. We’ll get through it. She’ll get married on Saturday,” said Mason.
There were hugs and comfort for Kuhl, who had just shown up to pick up her dress for the big day, which for her is Dec. 4. Now all she has are the pictures.
Her groom-to-be, Rick Piwowarski, tried to put in perspective.
“It’s a dress,” Piwowarski said. “It’s a huge deal, but it’s not as if we’re getting married tomorrow. So we will find you another dress and you’ll look even more beautiful, and we’ll be fine.”
Investigators are still searching for a cause to the fire, and hope to determine one later Thursday.
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Court records suggest the past few years have not been easy for the owners of Eva’s Bridals: Lawsuits were filed against them by creditors to collect money.
An attorney who worked with one member of the family says the ill-fated Oak Lawn shop and the Eva’s Bridals shop in Orland Park were owned by two factions of the same family.
Factions who didn’t always see eye-to-eye.
And eviction procedures had been under way this year against the Orland Park shop for alleged non-payment of rent: More than $50,000 in back rent.
The owner of the bridal shop says she wants to help these devastated brides get dresses. She is setting up a number that brides can call to get information on their orders. The number should be up and running by Thursday: (630) 747-1911.
Eva’s Bridal hopes to quickly open a satellite location near the burned-out store to service brides with upcoming weddings in the next several days, according to a statement posted on the store’s website.
“There are no words to describe how we feel about today’s tragic event and fire; we cannot even imagine how you may feel,” the statement said in part. Store owners are “grateful for no physical injuries” and are working “hand in hand” with designers to deliver gowns on time.
CBS 2’s Pamela Jones, Roseanne Tellez and Mai Martinez contributed to this report.