That Special Touch owner Terry Kutsko broadcast an announcement Oct. 15 on her shop’s Facebook page.
“After 10 fantastic years of owning That Special Touch, I have decided to say goodbye,” she wrote at the time.
The message got 15,000 hits, Kutsko said, and an outpouring of comments from saddened patrons.
The store’s inventory went on sale and word on the street was that the shop would shutter its operation for good, Kutsko said. The lease on the space at 544 Washington St. was up Dec. 31, and Kutsko had been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in February.
It was time, she said, to focus on her health. She needed to find a buyer, or the beloved bridal gown shop would close.
On the precipice of the New Year, Kutsko had another announcement, one riddled with exclamation points and infused with a happy tone.
“I’m so excited to announce That Special Touch has a new owner and will REMAIN OPEN!!,” Kutsko wrote. “I’m happy to congratulate Traci DeBord on purchasing the bridal shop! She will continue to run it in the same special way that everyone has come to expect, and you will receive the same personal service that we’ve always been known for. We still have some loose ends to tie up, so it will be a few more weeks before she begins taking orders again.”
Through That Special Touch, Kutsko has outfitted hundreds of brides. She’s dressed up hundreds of prom goers and put plenty of grooms in their tuxes. Although clothes are her focus now, That Special Touch started off as a floral shop. Kutsko had more than 20 years of experience crafting floral arrangements for weddings, working for Petals and Vines. One day, she found herself flipping through the classifieds section of the newspaper. An interior designer was selling off her fixtures, along with a cash register. She opened up shop in the Zaharakos building.
“I had one dad — I was doing flowers for him,” Kutsko said. “He was in the shop and he said to me, ‘I just want to give you one piece of advice. Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t promise what you can’t come through with.’”
The advice stuck with her as her business grew. To supplement her floral business, she ordered a few dresses. Then she ordered a few more. Then she added tuxes.
When Zaharakos expanded, Kutsko moved to the 500 block of Washington Street. Eventually, she took over the storefront next to her. Now, That Special Touch has five dressing rooms and is pleasantly stocked with wedding dresses, prom dresses and tuxes.
“I never really planned to have this whole big bridal shop,” Kutsko said. “It just really grew over the last 10 years.”
When Hillary Apple was preparing for her wedding, she saved for last her visit to That Special Touch.
“I kind of knew in the back of my mind that it wasn’t going to feel right buying a dress anywhere else,” Apple said.
Apple had purchased her prom dress at That Special Touch — a gold-colored dress with gathering that reminded her of the formal gown Belle wore in Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast.”
“Terry provides high-end looks, but it’s not too expensive,” Apple said. “It feels like you’re in a high-end bridal salon, but you’re treated more like family.”
For as much happiness as her dresses generate, Kutsko feels the magic every day.
“I think the dresses themselves are gorgeous,” she said. “When the right girl puts it on, that’s when the magic happens. I know that sounds kind of corny. When you can match a person with the right dress and make them feel fantastic about themselves, that’s the best thing.”
Her cancer diagnosis didn’t spell an immediate end for the shop. Kutsko spent 2015 battling the disease, which was found in her breast, lungs, liver and on her spine. The cancer, she said, is now inactive.“I’m doing a ton better,” she said. “I just really want to work on building up my endurance and feeling super healthy. I’m going to have to continue to fight this.” A few years ago, Traci DeBord had purchased her wedding dress at That Special Touch. Actually, the dress was a prom dress — shorter than the typical wedding dress, and executed in ivory with black accents. The MainSource Bank employee liked the shop’s Facebook page and, when she saw Kutsko’s post about the search for a buyer, remarked to her husband that it would be fun to own a bridal shop. And then she continued to think about it. DeBord met with Kutsko and, by Dec. 29, had worked out a deal. DeBord would leave her financial job and buy the dress shop.
DeBord, who has a blended family of four boys, has always wanted a little girl to dress up.
“Now I get to do that every day,” DeBord said.
She will take over Feb. 1.
“I think I’m going to feel a sense of accomplishment, but also a little scared,” DeBord said. “But I have the comfort of knowing that Terry is just a phone call away.”
It is a special shop that Kutsko is handing over.
“Sometimes, at the end of the day, when you’re turning the lights out, you just look around the shop,” Kutsko said. “It is really just a magical business.”