Diane No. 1

I am starting my blogging career with a story about courage, tenacity and perseverance. It involves creativity. It is filled with love, trust and honesty. It also is a story of tragedy, survival, and growth. Ultimately, it might be just a story about friendship and women.

In 1986 I started a small commercial real estate company In Waldo with the help, support and guidance of my parents. A few years into my new business I decided to buy another building in Waldo and try my hand at development. That’s when I met Sharon Miller. Sharon sat down with me and my father to pitch her idea - renting exquisite ballgowns and evening wear to women so they could afford to enjoy glamourous clothing that otherwise would be out of their price bracket, rather than purchasing an item that they only needed once or twice. What a novel and brilliant idea, I thought. I told Sharon that I was interested in working with her.

Well, not so fast girls. A woman-owned start-up real estate company and a woman-owned start-up business weren’t exactly fitting into the male dominated, conservative financing or real estate development market at that time. Sharon could not find funding for her idea for several years, but that never stopped her. We consulted and consoled each other. My father tried to open doors for her. Sharon sought funding through the SBA and finally, we figured it out. Sharon opened the Gown Gallery at 515 W.75th Street in Waldo in 1994.

As her business grew, so did mine. Sharon expanded to bridal wear, started selling gowns and honed her skills of providing a unique and personal experience for each of her customers. My business grew too and I learned volumes about financing, leasing, developing and managing real estate.

Fast forward to the early 2000s; I redeveloped the Waldo Building (500 West 75th Street) and Sharon moved her business there in 2002. It was a beautifully designed, haute couture bridal salon. It was everything Sharon and I had dreamed about; it was gorgeous.

Then, in February 2007, it all went up in flames; literally, flames. My building was on fire and Sharon’s entire business was burning up. Even remembering it now causes me to feel a lump in my stomach. It was surreal. The story could have ended there, but, it didn’t. Sharon rallied and so did I. It was tragic and painful. It took a long time to recover from the fire and it was very debilitating at moments. We cried a lot. Sharon’s path after the fire lead her away from Waldo and we even thought our story together was reaching its end when she moved into another property downtown. But it wasn’t.

In 2010 Sharon moved into one of my buildings in the Crossroads Arts District. It was like a sigh of relief for both of us. We’d made it through adversity and now we could focus on the present, the future and the joy of working hard and being creative. I hope you look at Sharon’s website, www.gowngallery.com, so you can see just how lovely her bridal salon is. My business and my life is happier because of my long-term relationship with this remarkable woman.