Saying yes to the dress may be difficult, but picking the bridal shop is a process in and of itself. With options ranging from trunk shows to wedding dress warehouses, it can be a challenge to decide where to even start. Naturally, your budget also plays an important role in which dress — and shop — you select. This is where David’s Bridal excels. Sometimes termed the “Walmart of bridal,” David’s Bridal has wedding gowns retailing for under $50 as of the writing of this article.

Whether you look to the wedding wear chain with a measure of disdain or are happy the super-store has such cheap prices, there’s a lot more to this bridal empire than meets the eye. The true story of David’s Bridal is one that not many know. From the company’s grassroots beginning to the way they indefinitely altered the wedding dress industry, you may be surprised at the things you learn. Here’s the untold truth of David’s Bridal.

Who is David?

Woman in wedding dress in David's Bridal

It may be hard to imagine, but David’s Bridal was once nothing like the stores you see today. One of the few things that has remained the same is the company’s name. One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, a telling book by Rebecca Mead, details the start of the wedding wear empire.

In the early 1950s, a man by the name of David Reisberg opened his very first eponymous store, David’s Bridal. For some two decades, Reisberg ran his one-off boutique. Although Reisberg seems to have led a fairly private and quiet life, his obituary from 2011 provides some insight into the ambitious life he lived.

Born David Milton Reisberg and originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Reisberg was a veteran of World War II. At some point, Reisberg made the move to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he founded the very first David’s Bridal location. In the 1970s, Reisberg sold his business and, instead of starting another shop, became a realtor — a position he held for some 30 years. In addition to his successful professional life, he was also a “devoted husband, father and grandfather,” according to the Sun Sentinel (via Legacy).

From David’s Bridal to Phil’s

Bride in wedding gown posing

When Reisberg sold his business in the ’70s, he probably couldn’t have imagined what the future held. Nearly 50 years later, one in three brides would go on to wear wedding gowns purchased from David’s Bridal. Although there would be no David’s Bridal without David Reisberg, much of the company’s success should be credited to the young man, entrepreneur Phil Youtie, who bought Reisberg’s first store.

After purchasing the original David’s Bridal salon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Youtie began buying out other bridal stores to the north and south of Fort Lauderdale — from Boca Raton to Coral Gables. Instead of changing the name from David’s Bridal to Phil’s, Youtie decided to keep the moniker Reisberg had chosen. However, once he started the task of converting acquired bridal salons into David’s Bridal stores, it was very much Phil Youtie’s brainchild. The small salon Reisberg had once owned quickly became a thing of the past.

Finding ways to undercut the competition
Rack of wedding dresses

When Youtie took over David’s Bridal and began expanding, his company wasn’t all that different from other bridal salons throughout the country. According to One Perfect Day, they stocked gowns in one standard size as was the norm during that time.

By the 1980s, Youtie began experimenting with a different business model. He noticed that outlet malls that had once sold discontinued merchandise at a lower cost also started selling ready-to-wear clothing. In 1991, Youtie enlisted the help of his childhood buddy, Steve Erlbaum, and together they opened the first David’s Bridal Warehouse in Hallandale, Florida. True to its name, it wasn’t a glamorous location. There weren’t any carpets on the floors nor any dressing rooms in which to to try on gowns. What they did have, though, were bridal gowns at half the price other salons were charging. Youtie and his partner were able to offer these incredible prices by selling off manufacturers’ overstocks.

“The first year, we made an enormous profit, because we had an unheard of markup,” Youtie explained. The prices of the gowns may have been low, but everything else was extra. “We did no alterations, and if anyone needed a bobby pin, we would charge them for it,” he said.

Read More: