It was an unusual sight for Saugerties, or anywhere. Throughout the weekend, women with satin frocks and ball gowns draped over their arms left her bridal shop at 160 Ulster Ave. in droves. After 16 years of selling ornate dresses for all occasions, Michelle Siracusano opened her doors for the last time to give away her entire stock — for free. Facebook posts, word of mouth and newspaper ads resulted in a line of customers that extended along the sidewalk toward Price Chopper. At the door, Siracusano’s husband Bob instructed each visitor to take only three dresses — a limit imposed, Siracusano said, after initial visitors pulled dresses off the shelves with reckless abandon.
Each day last weekend, the store’s congested racks would be picked clean, only to be restocked and pored over the next day. “Someone said, ‘It’s like you’re the Apple store and you’re giving away free phones,” joked Siracusano. “I’m glad that the fire inspector didn’t show up when 100 people were in my 800-square-foot store.”
Siracusano, along with her spouse Bob Siracusano, are no strangers to mass acts of generosity. Although the lifetime Saugerties residents own Sawyer Motors, the largest car dealership in town, the couple is best known for their local philanthropic acts — orchestrating the town’s annual Holiday in the Village celebration, the Sawyer Motors Car Show, galas, golf tournaments, fundraisers, an annual stage show to raise money for Saugerties High School and donating large sums to local children in need.
“This three-day event was an extraordinary experience. Many of my former brides showed up with their daughters and picked out prom gowns — another generation! Several prom and pageant girls came back for wedding gowns,” Siracusano said. “It almost felt like a reunion … My goal was to make people happy, and I think I’ve accomplished it. I’ve donated hundreds of gowns and dresses in the past, to local schools, churches and Cinderella’s Closet … [this last time] it was a lot easier for people to come to me, rather than shipping loads of garments to multiple locations.”
“I scored 42 dresses today — I couldn’t fit another one in my van it was so full. Probably about $30,000 worth of dresses,” said local artist Kelli Bickman, who said she would use them as part of an upcoming art installation.
Siracusano said that she’d given over 2,200 garments away over the weekend, dresses for brides, flower girls, proms, christenings, along with a slew of accessories like veils and tiaras — “you don’t want to know [how much they cost in total].” Owning a bridal shop, she said, was a goal on her “bucket list”; in the same vein, she’s earned a helicopter pilot license. Siracusano said that although her shop is closed, she’ll never retire, and continue to devote herself to local projects.
(Editor’s note: The story was updated to clarify for what purpose Bickman took the dresses.)