Two years ago, David Gaffke, owner of an East Dundee bridal salon, penned an angry letter to the producers of "Say Yes to the Dress." In it, he blasted them for being out of touch with reality -- as evidenced by the pricey gowns depicted on the show.
The show's producers took notice of Gaffke, owner of Complete Bridal Salon, his all-male staffers, and created "Best in Bridal," a reality show centered on the small group at the downtown shop.
The show will air on FYI, a new lifestyle network launching July 7. "Best in Bridal" airs the same day and involves Gaffke and his employees doing what they do best in the female-dominated industry -- selling dresses -- and the drama that can ensue, Gaffke said.
"I'm super excited," Gaffke said. "We make it over the top and crazy, because boys in bridal? Come on."
Crews will start shooting 10 more episodes Tuesday and are due to wrap production in July, Gaffke said. Two episodes, plus the pilot episode are already in the can.
Meanwhile, area brides and grooms to be, as well as their families and friends, can get their own shot at reality stardom during a casting call Gaffke is holding at the Bridal Fashion Show and Expo. It's from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, 495 Airport Road, in Elgin. Registration starts at 11:30 a.m. Free tickets are available at bridalevent.net.
FYI, owned by A+E Network, means "for your inspiration" or "for your innovation." It aims to inspire creativity by showing how people actually live their lives, according to a news release.
Karen Blair, East Dundee's marketing director, says the show will help the village tremendously with its ongoing revitalization efforts in the downtown.
"We want to support David as well as all other businesses to see that they do well and succeed," Blair said.
Gaffke has 31 years in the business and has owned his salon for nine.
In addition to bridal gowns, the East Dundee salon also sells prom, pageant, bridesmaids and mother of the bride dresses.
Gaffke calls his salon the "ugly stepsister" of the bridal industry, a far cry from the two salons featured on "Say Yes To the Dress."
"Say Yes To The Dress," which airs on TLC, follows brides trying wedding gowns on in front of family and friends and saying "yes" to the one they want. Prices at Kleinfeld Bridal, one of the salons featured on the show, start at $1,500 and go beyond $10,000, according to its website.
"Why not cover a store that's 99 percent of the market share instead of 1 percent where, honestly, normal girls don't have those budgets," Gaffke said he told producers. "We're not pretty, we won't have the chandeliers, but you're paying 45 percent cheaper than retail and we're not paid a commission."
In his letter to producers, Gaffke also mentioned he owns an all-male bridal salon, which he said is a novelty in the bridal industry. What's more, men understand what other men like. In Gaffke's view, the groom is the client, not the bride or some other relative wielding a checkbook.
"He's ultimately the one that we have to impress the most," Gaffke said. "If when he sees her he doesn't have a tear in his eye or his buddies aren't tapping him on the shoulder, then we didn't do our job right."