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Bridal diva Yolanda fashions her exit

Yolanda Cellucci Yolanda Cellucci (The Boston Globe/File 2002)
By Jenn Abelson
Globe Staff / July 15, 2009
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She’s been dubbed the “Sultan of Sequins,’’ the “First Lady of Fashion,’’ and “The Dress Diva.’’

Over the past 41 years, Yolanda Cellucci has built a wedding empire in Waltham, making fortunes on sealing the fates of young brides across the region. But it’s the end of an era for this glamour gal who is shutting the doors of Yolanda’s Bridal Salon next month.

Cellucci, 74, said yesterday she is selling the property to local developers and closing her popular boutique to spend more time with her family. The Newton native launched the company in Belmont in 1968 with only seven dresses and a handful of wigs. She has grown the company to more than $5 million in annual sales with a full beauty salon, spa, and event center, where she has dressed up local TV personalities such as Natalie Jacobson and worked with celebrities such as Joan Rivers and Eva Gabor.

“My family had been leaning on me to spend more time with them,’’ said Cellucci, who is a cousin of former Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci. “I decided it was the right time. And I didn’t want to sell it because most people want you to stay on if the business is in your name. And Yolanda’s is synonymous with service and catering, and I didn’t want my name to be ruined by someone else.’’

Duffy Properties in Waltham, which purchased Cellucci’s property, said it has no definite plans for the site.

Yolanda’s Bridal, however, is gearing up for its biggest event yet. A closing sale is scheduled to start next week, with discounts of between 50 and 75 percent on the entire store - gowns, furs, jewelry, shoes. It will run until the shop shuts down at the end of August. Cellucci, frequently clad from head to toe in shimmery white outfits, has already sold several dozen dresses to the new owners of Filene’s Basement for one of its “Running of the Brides’’ events.

All bridal and couture dresses scheduled for delivery will be shipped to Ana Hernandez Bridal Salon on Newbury Street, and spa memberships will be transferred to the Waverly Oaks Athletic Club in Waltham. Cellucci said she’ll spend her free time working on a book, helping charities, and taking piano lessons.

While the recession had taken its toll on brides across the country, Cellucci said she was not closing the company for financial reasons. She acknowledged, however, that brides were trading down and competition had increased from new bridal rivals such as J. Crew.

Yolanda’s would have needed to make various changes to keep up its success, such as creating more online shopping opportunities, Cellucci said.

“Business has changed, the way people shop has changed because people have less and less time,’’ said Cellucci, who built a reputation around lavishing clients with attention and exclusive custom offerings.

In recent years, Cellucci attempted to broaden her reach, featuring services for tuxedoes, photography, flowers, cakes, limousines, travel, invitations, and gown cleaning and restoration under one roof. In 2006, she added a global bridal collection that included traditional style Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Italian gowns.

Jay Calderin, founder and executive director of Boston Fashion Week, described Cellucci as an integral part of the Boston fashion scene who supported many local designers and created a bridal legacy.

“She was the ultimate brand,’’ said Calderin, who is also an instructor at the School of Fashion Design on Newbury Street. “When you saw her - in her usual head-to-toe white ensemble - it was clear everything she and her company stood for. It was all about glamour.’’

Jenn Abelson can be reached at abelson@globe.com.

Yolanda's unique style

Yolanda's unique style

See archive photos of the woman, her store, and her style.