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AWGS honors Hagearty
at annual gathering
Members of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists (AWGS) met March 1-4 in San
Antonio, TX, to discuss marketing strategies with wedding industry experts, tour the plant of
Five Star Cleaners and Wedding Gown Specialists owned by AWGS members Richard and
Sharlene Thum, and elect officers.
A highlight of the meeting was the presentation of the eighth annual Jack Barth Memorial
Award of Excellence. Initiated by Linda Stokes-Barth in remembrance of her late husband and
his achievements in the drycleaning industry, the award recognizes a member of the
association for advancement, promotion, and development of industry standards for wedding
gown care and for outstanding contributions and service to the Association and its members.
This year’s honoree, Christa Fawcett Hagearty, president and CEO of Dependable Cleaners in
Boston, MA, heads a three-generation, family-owned company with 15 locations supported by
seven plants.
Hagearty’s academic credentials include a BA from the University of Vermont, an MBA from
the Simmons School of Management at Simmons College, and completion of the President’s
Leadership Executive Course at Harvard Business School.
Among the many awards she has received, she is perhaps proudest of recognition by the
Boston Business Journal as one of 40 outstanding executives under 40 in Boston and as an
Outstanding Woman of Family Business.
Her most challenging achievement was rebuilding after a massive fire destroyed the
company’s headquarters in Quincy, MA. The new facility features state-of-the-art energy
efficient lighting and machinery. 
Dependable’s commitments to the community include sponsoring local sports leagues,
community events and its “Read to Ride” program now in its nineteenth year which encourages
children to read books by offering chances to win bikes and other prizes.
Speakers at the conference presented a range of techniques for reaching brides via social
media. The high-end bride, explained Cheryl Bailey of WeddingIndustryRescue.com, wants to
buy from the best so it is important to establish credibility as an authority in the field. Bailey’s
partner Shea Bailey outlined ways to support expert status with a website that captures the
attention of search engines.
Once the bride reaches the website, Vanessa Joy of Vanessa Joy Photography suggested
holding her attention with video.
“The average attention span is down to about four seconds — not much more than a goldfish
has,” said Joy, “but the play button is the most compelling action on the web.” Joy then
explained step by step how to create effective videos from photographs.
According to Natalia Isaeva, assistant director of AWGS, the Facebook audience is aging. She
pointed to Instagram as a better platform for connecting with the 18-34 bridal demographic.
Isaeva also offered tips for expanding the reach of Instagram posts and stories.
Client care was also an important theme. “Onboarding is essential to communicating with the
bride,” said Kellie Daab of IDoCollective.com. “Be sure you understand the life cycle of her
experience and can tell her the steps in the process of caring for her gown.”
It’s also important to learn to speak “bride.” AWGS member Elton Crespo of Dependable
Cleaners told the group the bride wants to know three things: that she trusts you, that you
care, and that you are committed to excellence.
Crespo was followed by Ken Grippi, national training director for AWGS, who described how
to train counter service representatives to interact effectively with brides.
Kerryn Wollington of LDC Luxury Dry Cleaning in Cardiff, NSW, Australia, shared photos and
described her experiences with wedding gowns “down-under style.” She has been successful
using anniversary dates and marketing at bridal fairs.
Re-elected to office were president Kermit Engh of Fashion Cleaners in Omaha, NE; vice
president Gary Fine of Parkers Custom Clothing Care in Toronto, ON, and secretary-treasurer
Sharlene Thum of Five Star Wedding Gown Specialists in San Antonio, TX.
Malcolm MacGregor of Browns Cleaners in Ottawa, Ontario, serves as immediate past
president and chair of the finance committee. Also re-elected was Brian Fowler of Stannards
Drycleaners in Perth, WA, who represents AWGS’ Australian members on the board of
directors.
Incoming members of the board of directors are Sunny Jung of Gold Label Cleaners and
Restoration Labs in Denver, CO; Jeanne Meden of Calhoun Street Cleaners in Charleston, SC;
and Ed Longanecker of Iris City Cleaners and Laundering Company in Mount Pleasant, IA.
Retiring members of the board are Brian Harrell of Shores Fine Dry Cleaners in Winston-
Salem, NC; Kathy Kimmel of The Kimmel Corporation in upper Sandusky, OH; and David
Machesney of Pratt Abbott Garment Care in Portland, ME.
Members new to the association this year are Keith and Mila Martin of Arkansas Gown
Preservation at Captain Keith’s Classic Cleaners in Bentonville, AR; Cooki and Jaya Patel of
2001 Cleaners/Cunningham Cleaners in Charlotte, NC; and Marlena da Rocha of La Vie
Lavanderia in Curitiba, Parana, Brazil. The da Rocha family is the association’s second member
in Brazil. The first is Lav&Cia in Rio de Janeiro.
Sponsors of the event were Kreussler Textile Care, Foster-Stephens, Inc., Sankosha-USA,
Inc. and Select Risk Insurance.
AWGS is a not-for-profit trade association with members in five countries. Members are
certified to ensure that wedding gowns and heirloom textiles of all kinds are cleaned according
to established museum standards and preserved in archival-quality materials. Brides benefit
from the personal, interactive service offered by wedding gown specialists in local
communities, but the guarantee is an international warranty because each member honors the
guarantee of every other member no matter where in the world they may be.
Members benefit from both trademarked logos and other promotions such as care labels and
recommendations from more than 70 designer gowns including couture designers Romona
Keveza, Modern Trousseau, Paloma Blanca, Justin Alexander and Matthew Christopher.
The association partners, too, with wedding media such as TheKnot.com, WeddingWire.com
(affiliated with Brides.com, WeddingBee.com, and Project
Wedding.com), MyWedding.com (affiliated with MarthaStewartWeddings.com), and
PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com. Together with these leading wedding websites, AWGS also
sponsors the National Bridal Sale Event held annually the third Saturday in July. In 2017, more
than 800 bridal shops participated in the program.
The association’s MuseumCare ZeroCarbon preservations are endorsed by the Association of
Bridal Consultants, the professional organization dedicated to wedding professionals worldwide.
The association also offers brides the safety and convenience of Destination Wedding Kits,
which are designed to fit into the overhead space on airplanes. The kits make it easy for brides
to carry their gowns with them through security and onto the airplane en route to their
destination weddings.
For more information about training and membership, call the association office, (800) 501-
5005, or visit
www.WeddingGownSpecialists.com.