High school job inspires commitment to beautiful weddings and a new business in Downtown Bay City

Tara Knipp’s first job as a teen led to her opening a new business of her own.

Knipp opened First Look Bridal Boutique, 908 Washington Ave. in Downtown Bay City, on Sept. 10. She brings several years of experience to the position.

“I started at Sempliner’s (Bridal Salon) when I was 16,” she says.

Tara Knipp's first job in high school was helping girls find prom dresses at Sempliner's Bridal Boutique. Today, she owns her own bridal boutique in Downtown Bay City.At Sempliner’s ­– which closed in 2019 after nearly 150 years in business ­– Knipp started working with teens looking for prom dresses. She worked her way up to to helping people find bridalwear. By the time she left, Knipp was selling and fitting wedding gowns.

“I have a love for bridal,” Knipp says. “It’s one of the biggest days of your life and I get to be a part of that, and it’s very important to find the best dress and to make people feel their best on the biggest day.”

Knipp says she had been looking for a location for her shop, when friends at Urban East let her know that the neighboring space would be available for lease.

“They saw that I have a passion and just a love for bridal.”

She opened her doors with an inventory that includes two dress lines, Maggie Sattero and Jenny Yoo. First Look Bridal is the only salon in Michigan to offer Jenny Yoo. Inside her shop, brides find everything from glittery, champagne-colored princess dresses to lace gowns overlayed in mauve, blush, and ivory.

“I shoot for the most unique things, from big ball gowns all the way down to like slinky simple with a little bit of lace. I have a lot of different silhouettes, from mermaid to trumpet, to A-line. I guess you can say, I have an eye for it.”

She also wants to create a space that is all inclusive for brides, so she carries sizes 6 to 22.

“I call it a boutique without the boutique prices,” she addss.

Before she even had the building, she and a friend were brainstorming business name ideas.

“I remember having a first look with my dad, and a first look with my bridesmaids. Some people do a first look with their soon-to-be-husband or wife, and it’s like that first magical moment when everything comes together. It was a play on words with bridal, but I also wanted this to be the place where you think to look first.”

Another option was Ivory and Lace, but Knipp says she couldn’t expand her lines if she went with just a bridal theme. Knipp opened in the middle of homecoming season, so she missed that opportunity this year, but she will be getting in prom dresses for this spring and dresses for homecoming next fall.

For now, she doesn’t plan to fit bridesmaids, but the mother of the brides and grooms will have a place to find just the right dress for the occasion. She also has all of the accessories to fit the dresses.

First Look Bridal Boutique offers bridal gowns as well as dresses for the mothers of the bride and groom. Eventually, the owner hopes to add prom and homecoming dresses to her inventory.Giving a nod to Sempliner’s, Knipp says she wants to create stories, similar to what the formalwear retailer offered. She has a vintage dress displayed inside the door and has plans to display others.

“They did stories in their big window fronts on their vintage dresses, and told the stories of the dresses. I don’t have the window space, but want to put the story on the wall.”

She says she’s had people approach her about providing their vintage dresses for display, and plans to incorporate those into the store.

More information about the boutique is available on Facebook.