Q&A with Gilded Social owner Tanya Hartman

Emma Frankart Henterly
Tanya Hartman with shop dog Chewie at Gilded Social

This story first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in June 2018.

This January, Tanya Hartman bought La Jeune Mariee Maids, the bridesmaid component of the Downtown bridal boutique La Jeune Mariee, moving the shop to a second-floor storefront on Gay Street and renaming it Gilded Social – The Fancy Occasion Shop. Columbus Weddings spoke with Hartman—former director of the Center for Public Investment Management in Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel's office—in February, just before the shop's grand opening celebration.

Your background is in politics and government. How did you end up owning your own retail business?

I have always loved weddings, and before I worked for the state, I had my own fundraising consulting business. Being in fundraising lends itself to a lot of event planning, but I really never necessarily wanted to do wedding planning as a career. I loved planning my wedding, but I didn't know if I would love planning everyone else's.

Back in September, I started to kind of get the itch to change jobs. I did not know what I wanted to do; I just knew that I wanted to do something creative that I could make a living with. I met Lindsay Fork, the owner of La Jeune Mariee, at the launch of The Scout Guide in mid-October. Within 10 minutes of us talking, she said, “I'll sell you my 'maids store.”

I think the first time we talked seriously about the sale was maybe Nov. 2, and we closed on Dec. 8. It went smoothly, I think, because both Lindsay and I were so committed to getting it done, and we wanted to have it totally separate at the end of last year. It was fast, but that was a good way to do it.

How does your shop differ from other boutiques?

Well, there aren't any other shops in Columbus that sell to bridesmaids exclusively; we want to cater to the bridesmaid just as much as the bride. You're our customer; you're the one who's spending money with us, so we're going to treat you just as great as the bride.

One thing I'm really proud of is that we have at least one plus-size sample for every line we carry—at minimum, one to two dresses from each line, so customers can see how that designer fits, since every designer cuts on the same pattern for all their dresses.

That's great! What sparked that decision?

I had a party that came in, probably the second Saturday that I worked myself, and two of the girls couldn't try on anything in the store. Not a single thing. I was heartbroken for them. We want people to know that at Gilded Social, it's an inclusive process. We don't want you to feel like just because you're not an 8, 10 or 12—and frankly, neither am I; I'm like a 14—that you still can't come have a great experience. My whole focus is on that elevated bridesmaid experience.

Is there anything else that elevates the shopping experience at your store?

I am a big believer in, if I as the business owner just spend a little bit more money—having fresh flowers, offering Champagne, having a really nice, open, comfortable space to be in—that makes a difference. We made our dressing rooms just as big as any bridal boutique might make their dressing rooms. I want people to feel like the experience was worthy of how much they're spending on these dresses.