Woman closing bridal shop, putting energy into ministry

September 15, 1998

Margred's Bridal SalonBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Margred Lewis has spent nearly four decades getting people ready for special occasions. Now she will use her talents to get them ready for life.

"It's been a great 38 years," Margred Lewis said last week at Margred's Bridal Salon, 54 S. Main St., which will close next month. While she's ready to retire, Lewis said she'll remain active with a new ministry, the House of Grace.

In fact, the House of Grace will be in her old home at the corner of Lincoln Way East and Third Street. On Friday, she signed a lease with the new ministry, which will teach essential life skills to women.


In 1960, she and her husband John, a Department of the Army employee, moved to Chambersburg, where he was assigned to Letterkenny Army Depot. A Merle Norman consultant, she opened a shop on Lincoln Way West.

Five years later, the couple bought a building on North Main Street and began selling evening and wedding gowns. For years she offered cosmetic services free to those customers.

For a few years her business operated out of the Southgate Mall and then at a shop across from the present location.

"This is the fifth and final move," Margred said in the pink-and-mauve shop where a man was trying on a tuxedo for his upcoming wedding.

She recalled the time former Pennsylvania Gov. Richard Thornburgh visited the shop.

"You mean you left the mall to come back here. Why?" Thornburgh asked her.

"Because I believe in the downtown," she told him.

"It really hurts me to see how our downtown has deteriorated over the years with the empty stores," she said.

On one side of her store there's a discount shop advertising beauty and hair care products, gold and beepers. On the other is a vacant storefront.

Lewis said she had no retail experience when she started in 1960, but her business survived many that have long since closed down. She has served some families over generations.

She recalled one family from Hagerstown whose five daughters bought their prom gowns and wedding dresses from her store.

Once there were 12 employees at Margred's Bridal Salon and the former Margred's Bridal Outlet off Wayne Avenue. She also had a shop in the Ramada Inn in Hagerstown.

With mannequins in wedding gowns flanking clearance sale signs, the store now has two employees, Shirley Wade and Effielow Fleagle.

In the months ahead, Lewis will work with the House of Grace, teaching women a variety of life skills, including cooking, grooming, sewing, gardening, child care and Bible studies.

"These are things women will need to go out and get jobs" and manage their homes, Lewis said. "A lot of them don't even have parenting skills," she said.

"This is for people that are lost, that are hurting, people who have gone through a lot of trials and tribulations in their lives," Lewis said.

She hopes area churches will come together to support the ministry with volunteers and funding.

"We don't want any money from the state, federal or local governments," Lewis said.

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