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It’s dress up day every day: Jan’s Bridal opens in Gering
September 02, 2016 Frank Marquez   

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Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Jan and Ray Goossen, owners of Jan’s Bridal Prom and More, opened their shop a few weeks ago on 10th Street. Jan holds a prom dress, among several popular styles.

For the past three and a half years, Ray and Jan Goossen ran a dress shop in Bayard called Bayard Bridal. This past August, the couple moved to Gering to open Jan’s Bridal Prom and More, near the corner of O Street and 10th Street, the main thoroughfare in Gering.

“We moved to Gering because we felt it would be more advantageous, for a number of reasons, including having a main window to showcase merchandise,” Jan said. “We had been looking for a location, and this is what we found after six weeks.”

Already receiving customers, the shop opened its doors on August 22, after Jan and Ray took possession of the store on August 1. Jan also has launched a website, www.jansbridalprom.com to round up customers, and she concedes it will a bit of time before the store builds up clientele.

The couple, who appear as though they could have been the subjects of a Norman Rockwell painting – Jan a petite figure with wide cheerful eyes, and Ray, a gentle soul glides through the shop in an unassuming manner – has been married for 17 years. Married in Minden, “we had kids show up (to the ceremony) that we didn’t know we had,” she said, smiling.

In reality, they have a combined 10 children between them from previous marriages – their children are scattered to the four winds, two in Lincoln, two in Omaha, two in Florida, two in Los Angeles, one in Dallas and one in Hawaii, some of them still in the workforce and a few of them already moving into retirement age. Being empty nesters has provided even more motivation to stay busy.

After about 17 years of living in Omaha, one of their daughters was planning to get married. She bought a dress, veil, and ended up not getting married, “but it gave me the idea, and I decided I needed to do something. We looked at buildings in Bayard, and we were in the process of negotiating, but the owner disappeared,” Jan said.

In 2013, the couple was visiting family in McKinney, Texas. Ray pointed out they weren’t too far from one of their suppliers in the south. They bought about 70 prom and wedding dresses, then we said, “where are we going to put them?” Three weeks later, the couple rented the only available building in Bayard; “it needed a lot of remodel work. Then we found this; this place (in Gering) is perfect, not too crowded. That’s how it all started.”

Well, not exactly.

No strangers to running a business, Jan relies on a wealth of customer service experience. She plays many roles in her shop – greeter, sales person, clerk – and Ray as bookkeeper. Sitting near the shop’s entrance, but mostly behind the scenes, Ray said, chiming in, “I’m a stranger in my own place.”

Jan began her career as real estate broker for 30 years in Omaha. The couple moved from the big city to Bayard in 1996, and bought a restaurant called the Corner Café, which they sold after three and half years. Then they ran an Ice Cream Wagon, which they owned for 12 years, travelling the area. They regularly drove the truck to Oregon Trail Days, and events around Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. During one occasion, at a National Convention for the deaf in Hastings, Ray and Jan didn’t know any sign language, and they were initially at a loss as to how they would make sales. Then, customers ended up writing their orders on paper. “You can make anything a wonderful experience if you keep your mind open to it. You’ll be amazed at the number of wonderful people you’ll meet,” Jan said.

After selling the ice cream wagon, they took a break from work for a few years off before opening the dress store. Jan said, “I decided I did not want to spend my life doing nothing, and just reading. As for travelling, there’s only so much of that you can do.”

Yet, there was a learning curve. Selling dresses was not the same as selling houses or ice cream. Upon opening the shop in Bayard, “I asked a few of the ladies who helped me what they knew about bridal dresses. They said, ‘nothing,’ and I said, join the ranks,” she said.

Jan’s father helped shape some of her business mentality. She recalled a trip to north Omaha in the 1940s, when she was a kid, around 9, and her father had been speaking with a man in a predominantly black neighborhood while she waited in the family car. When her father got back in the car, she asked why he was speaking to the man. Her father’s reply, was a sentiment she conveys in business. He told her about having respect for everyone, never mind how they look. “Don’t turn your back on people,” her father said.

It is a lesson Jan took to heart. Knowing her customer base in west Nebraska. Paying a fair price for good stock doesn’t always come easy.

“We try to keep prices reasonable, yet insist on quality,” Jan said.

Knowing she and Ray could have committed to a full-fledged retirement, selling dresses has instead become Jan’s passion. “I’ll work as long as I can,” she said.
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