After 30 years in La Crescenta, Alicia's Formal & Tuxedo Shop will close its doors later this month as the store's namesake, Alicia Fors, is retiring.
For decades, the shop has been the only one of its kind in town, where locals take their wedding, debutant or prom gowns for alterations, and it's where men have gone to have their tuxedos fitted. She also sells gowns and tuxedos.
Panicked, soon-to-be brides rush to the store when the dress they ordered online arrived too big or too small, and Fors said she has never turned anyone away, no matter how last minute. Her dutiful service has calmed many brides' nerves, she said.
"Everybody thinks their wedding is the wedding of the century," she said, jokingly. Then her voice took on a more serious tone. "We have to work so hard for each girl. It's so important for them."
Fors doesn't know yet how she will occupy her time in retirement because the business has been all-consuming for years. She also doesn't know where her customers will take their formals.
"Now I don't know what people are going to do," she said.
The shop will remain open for at least the next couple of weeks.
Fors and her part-time staff need to finish alterations on nearly 20 formal gowns, many of them wedding dresses, and some of them from women she tried to turn away, telling them she is retiring. However, they insisted that she help, Fors said.
She'll sell the remaining merchandise, even the handful of sewing machines in the back room, although she did consider keeping one for herself.
Now 69 years old, Fors was born and raised near Mexico City, and grew up working in her mother's bridal shop, where she learned how to make wedding gowns and formal dresses.
When she was 24, she left Mexico for Los Angeles, first settling in Monrovia and then in Montrose with her late husband, Edward Allan Fors, whom she met in church and went on to marry in 1977.
In Montrose, they raised a son, who became a lawyer, and a daughter, who became a teacher, and she has four grandchildren.
She opened her first shop on Foothill Boulevard near the La Crescenta-Tujunga border in 1985, and moved into her current shop on the same street near Lauderdale Avenue in La Crescenta in 2000.
For decades, she has worked six days each week, with work sometimes spilling into her only day off, particularly during the busy wedding seasons in spring and summer.
But she has never dreaded any of it.
"I'm always ready … happy to come," she said.
When Fors' husband passed away this past July, she knew it was time to retire.
He used to help her with the shop's books and paperwork, and with his passing, some aspects of running the business became overwhelming.
"I cannot do everything," she said. "It's time. I have to retire someday. I know everybody's sad. I know it's going to be hard, because I'm used to coming in [here] every morning."
This past Tuesday morning, the shop's first customer of the day was Col. James Anderson, who dropped by to pick up custom-made spats to wear around his boots for his gig as "The Dapper Doorman" at the Hollywood speakeasy "Next Door Lounge."
As the bar's bouncer, doorman and greeter, he also wears tuxedos tailored to fit him by Fors. In previous executive-protection jobs he's held, Fors fixed his tuxedos to carry bulky radios or guns.
He's been a customer of the shop for over 10 years, and he said he's uncertain where he'll turn next.
"I'm going to buy whatever I can before she sells out. I want to get some more tuxes and more gloves so I don't have to worry about it," he said.
Shortly after Anderson walked out with his new spats, Fors received her last shipment of tuxedos, which arrived in a tall cardboard box.
Before this month came around, she had already told the debutants she couldn't take on their dresses for any upcoming spring formals.
That leaves the men's formal wear on display, along with 20 or so dresses and wedding gowns and her final shipment of tuxedos.
"This is the last one," she said.
Kelly Corrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org