The owner of Charles Willis, the Buckhead wedding gift boutique brides have trusted for over 60 years, said closing the store permanently was a very difficult decision.
It was another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on the industry by delaying countless weddings and other large-scale events.
“We had no sales for two and a half months, and all our brides had to postpone their weddings. That was our business,” said Edyth Shadburn, who had worked at the store since 1960, a year after it opened, and has owned it since 2007.
In a letter addressed to current brides who used the store for their wedding registries and posted to Facebook June 4, the store’s staff wrote, “We are saddened to let you know that after 60 years we have found it necessary to close Charles Willis. Due to the COVID-19 interruption and the uncertainty of many of our suppliers to deliver in a timely manner, if at all, we are unable to sustain our business.”
Enclosed in the letter to brides were refunds for any unused credits on their wedding registry accounts.
Wordon Willis, whose father Charles started the business, posted the letter to Facebook along with a message about its closure.
“I am so very touched to feel everyone’s sympathy here and my father Charles and Uncle Walter would be as well,” he said. “After Charles passed away, the shop was sold and it has been run so beautifully ever since.
“He had a good run of it. My father, Charles Willis, started the business originally on Baltimore block in Atlanta (or so I have been told) in the 1940s and it made it has made it into 2020! I am so proud of the staff throughout those years for making that happen and so thankful to all who have shopped there over the years.”
In response to Wordon Willis’ message, dozens of fans of the store posted comments in honor of its closure.
“Another one of Atlanta’s institutions is put to rest,” Elizabeth Tate said. “My father always bought my mother’s jewelry from Charles Willis. I still wear some of it.”
Marti Speed said, “What a class act from beginning to end. How many wonderful memories and people loved that store. Endings are so very sad. I am sorry Worden.”
Shadburn said she had nine employees at the store and it will be “greatly missed.”
“Everyone’s very unhappy,” she said of brides’ and other customers’ reaction to the closure. “It’s been an institution in Atlanta for many years. We loved to serve the community, including three generations of brides.”