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One Pittsburgh Store's Journey From Shutdown To Reopening

Carlisle's Bridal of Pittsburgh
Colorful prom dresses line the wall at Carlisle's Bridal of Pittsburgh, which reopens this Saturday. The 132-year-old business has been closed since Gov. Tom Wolf ordered a shutdown in March.


On today's program: How one business owner plans to adapt as she reopens this weekend; some rural hospitals are struggling to imagine a financial future; and performance arts students and teachers adapt to virtual learning.

Wedding dress shopping will look and feel a little different now
(00:00 — 9:02)

For many brides, trying on a wedding gown means standing in their skivvies with strangers for hours, laboriously schlepping in and out of all manner of off-white finery. For bridal consultants, it's an intimate balance between assistance and advice, often while navigating unknown family dynamics.

Jan Winner, the fifth generation proprietor of Carlisle’s Bridal of Pittsburgh, says she can't wait to get re-started.

Carlisle's Bridal of Pittsburgh
Jan Winner is a descendant of Mrs. S. Carlisle, who founded Carlisle's Bridal of Pittsburgh in 1888.

  "I'm glad to be opening my store back up," she says. "My hopes are that people want to get out and shop for this happy occasion, that they're excited about it n'at, and that we all have patience because things are going to be a little different."

Carlisle's is among the hundreds of small businesses reopening this weekend as Allegheny County moves into a “yellow” phase—the second in Gov. Tom Wolf’s three-phase plan.

Starting Saturday, she says the store will be open only by appointment to customers and one attendant each. Guests and employees will wear masks at all times, consultants will wear gloves and she plans to steam and sanitize every gown a bride touches while in the store. 

Just off McKnight Road in Ross Township, Carlisle's was founded in 1888, so it withstood the Spanish flu a century ago, the Great Depression, local economic downturns in the 1980s and 90s and more. Winner says she remembers hearing stories of her grandmother and great grandmother pawning their personal jewelry and China dishes to keep the shop open 90 years ago.

"I have to work really hard to keep this going now, because they've suffered more than I've suffered so far," she says.

She says Carlisle's will likely never recoup the many thousands of dollars it lost in the last two months, including a full prom season and sales leading up to many spring and summer nuptials.

Some rural hospitals may not recover from coronavirus fallout
(9:04 — 13:25)

In March, the state of Pennsylvania banned medical systems from performing elective procedures as part of widespread efforts to prepare for a possible onslaught of COVID-19 patients. But that moratorium came at an economic cost.

90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden reports on how the coronavirus might reshape Pennsylvania’s health care landscape, particularly in rural communities. 

Performance students & teachers adjust to virtual lessons
(13:26 — 18:11) 

After the coronavirus shutdown, college instructors and students had to quickly adapt to teaching and learning online. But for students studying performance subjects like acting or music, remote education looks very different from the typical lecture classes most college students experience. 

90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll  reports on the challenges of learning performance over Zoom, and the upsides for classes gone digital.

90.5 WESA’s Julia Zenkevich contributed to this report. 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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