429 San Anselmo Avenue, San Anselmo
What do they offer?
offers formal princess wedding gowns, as well as many alternative styles perfect for beach, outdoor, and backyard weddings. Short or long, with or without a train, many can be purchased off the rack while others are samples, available by special order.
Because the look at Shadows Bridal is vintage, they search out reproduction dresses with the glamour and elegance of the 1930s, but keep the retail price in the affordable $500-1,000 range.
Brides can find accessories such as veils, shoes, shawls and cover-ups, hair combs and tiaras, jewelry, gloves, and handbags.
Shadows also carries dresses for bridesmaids, flower girls, mothers, guests, and gowns for special occasions like proms. Racks also hold clothes for work or casual wear. Vintage handbags hang behind the counter.
The extensive jewelry selection includes antique and estate pieces, such as Edwardian and Art Deco engagement rings, vintage rhinestone and Bakelite, pins of all shapes, sizes, colors and motifs – one charming display is a vintage denim jacket covered collar to cuff with brooches –and ethnic jewelry, from Native American, to Tibetan, Chinese, Afghani, Mexican, Peruvian, and Berber. Vintage crosses and religious medals from Argentina are popular with visiting students from the nearby Seminary.
Both founder, Jean Stewart, who has been making jewelry for decades, and her daughter Sylvia Stewart Stompe design pearl and crystal sets for brides, as well as semi-precious necklaces and earrings in many colors and styles.
Who are they?
Owner Sylvia Stewart Stompe was born in San Francisco, raised in Fairfax, and currently resides in San Geronimo. She took over from her parents, Jean and Charlie Stewart, after the 2005 flood destroyed not only most of the inventory but scotched the pending sale of the business, which was set to take place the day after the flood.
Growing up in the vintage clothing business from age two -- her parents opened their first place in 1967, The Third Hand Store, on Divisadero in San Francisco --Stompe spent many happy days playing dress up, then helped with display, sales and brides through her high school and college years.
She had several careers before returning to retail. A California Culinary Academy graduate, she cooked for years in the Napa Valley, then on a private yacht in the Caribbean. When a wrist injury ended her relationship with heavy pots and pans in 1999, she started a wholesale jewelry company.
How long have they been here?
Shadows Bridal opened in San Anselmo in 1985. From 1972-1986 the owners had a store in Larkspur called Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, which was more like a museum in that it carried vintage objects and antique clothing in an era when many brides choose authentic Victorian lace dresses. Moving to San Anselmo, they shortened the name and added new clothing to the mix.
Why are they business of the week?
Stompe was co-leader of the Downtown San Anselmo Merchants Association in 2009 and 2010, and she is also on the San Anselmo Economic Development Subcommitee.
Besides helping with town events such as Picnics in the Park, music at Town Hall, and the Holiday Open House, Shadows has always supported local schools and charities, frequently donating jewelry items for auctions.
Environmental analyst Erin Beller and her mother were at Shadows looking at gowns for Erin’s September wedding to be held in a private Napa Valley home. Though she lives in Oakland, after shopping in San Francisco and the East Bay, Beller came to Shadows Bridal because her aunt lives in Fairfax and she remembered the store. Delighted with the welcoming environment, helpful service and extremely reasonable prices, Beller found a great cross-section of gowns from which to choose.
“This is such an exciting time, shopping shouldn’t be stressful,” she said. “I’m looking for a simple and classic design, without a lot of embellishment, but I still want it to be interesting and unique.”
The gracious and service-oriented Stompe feels that one of the wonderful aspects of Shadows is having customers visit the store during the high points in their lives. “Often we have brides shopping for gowns who got their eighth-grade graduation, then high school prom dresses at Shadows,” she said. “A few years later, they return with their daughter to get a flower girl dress for another wedding!”