Luftenburg’s Bridal – a wedding dress shop in Fresno for 75 years with a long history downtown – is closing.
The store spent decades on the Fulton Mall before moving in 2013 to 5135 N. Blackstone Ave. – the building with the statue of the rearing gold horse out front.
Plans to sell the business that never panned out, competition from online businesses and a desire to retire led owner Delores Sulenta to close the business.
Luftenburg’s already is well into its going-out-of-business sale, with about 50 wedding dresses left. No official closing date has been set.
Never miss a local story.
It was just our time.
Luftenburg’s owner Delores Sulenta
The closure is the end of an era.
Luftenburg’s was in one location or another on Fulton for 72 years.
Even people who never have been shopping for a wedding dress know the Luftenburg’s name from the sign that still looms large over Chukchansi Park, its letters occasionally smashed by home runs.
Fresno Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Al Smith said communities hate to have longtime businesses like Luftenburg’s die.
“I think anytime that a heritage company in our community that has been around as long as they have closes, it’s a sad commentary on history,” Smith said.
“However, in the ebb and flow of retail commerce, it happens,” he says. “Nobody is guaranteed success for life.”
News of the closing drew a stream of comments on The Bee’s Facebook page, where people recalled the wedding and bridesmaids dresses they bought from the store over the decades.
“They made my wedding dress shopping a wonderful experience. I appreciate all they did to make my day special,” one woman wrote.
“Wow had my whole wedding party done by them 38 yrs ago all 26 of them. Back in 1979,” another woman wrote.
World War II roots
The store began as a lingerie business the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, according to Bee archives. Three generations of the McCutchen family ran the store, with the bridal portion opening in 1964.
Sulenta, a former Luftenburg’s employee,bought the business with her husband in 2008.
Business downtown was tough, so she moved it north.
The Fulton Mall building is now owned by investor Sevak Khatchadourian, owner of the Pacific Southwest Building. He has long-term plans to open a rooftop sports bar or restaurant there, notes Aaron Blair, president and chief executive officer of the Downtown Fresno Partnership.
Sulenta planned to sell Luftenburg’s and retire at 65, but after a year of trying, nothing panned out.
“Selling would have had the option of it being open that much longer, but it didn’t happen,” she said.
Despite the tiny inventory, she still is open to selling the business and its name.
Competition from Internet dress sellers also played a factor in the decision to close.
“Business is really, really slow,” she said. “I think half of these girls go on the Internet.”
Sulenta has made arrangements with her customers to finish alterations on their dresses before their weddings.
It’s sad that it’s going to be the end of the era.
Luftenburg’s owner Delores Sulenta
In addition to its remaining 50 dresses – 10 from the Disney line of wedding gowns – the store also has bridesmaid, mother-of-the-bride and boy baptism outfits for sale.
The store is open by appointment only now by calling 559-237-3496. Hours are roughly from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
“No offer on a dress is going to be refused unless it’s totally ridiculous,” Sulenta said.