Soon after Carol Hood opened A L'Amour on Valentine's Day 1990 she spoke with the owner of another suburban dress shop who was retiring after 20 years.
"I thought to myself, 'Well I don't have to ever worry about having a business that long,'" Hood said. "And here I am, longer than she was. Thing's change. When you love what you do, you continue with it."
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After thousands of prom dresses, wedding gowns and customers, Hood will retire at the end of the month, closing her Barrington shop once and for all.
Hood told the Daily Herald that the thing she will miss most of all are the people she meets.
"I can't even tell you over the years how many happy experiences you have when someone finds the perfect dress and can experience it with their family and friends," Hood said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing."
Not only brides get that feeling.
"Sometimes it's with a little girl finding her first communion dress. Just watching the expression on the mom's and child's face together. It's priceless," Hood said.
Hood opened her shop with her daughter, Amy Kazor. The two worked together at the original Catherine Sims store in Arlington Heights when Kazor was a teenager.
"They would leave her alone at night to close up and I didn't want her being left alone so I would go vacuum while she would close out the register," Hood said.
Eventually Hood worked her way up to manager. When the owners of that store said they were not ready to sell it to Hood, mother and daughter ventured out on their own.
Over time, Kazor reduced her role at her mother's shop and made her own way as a virtual assistant, helping companies with web development and social media. She still helps her mother with that aspect of the business.
"She is way more Internet-savvy than I am," Hood admitted with a chuckle.
The store is having a closing sale through the whole month of June.
Hood said several loyal customers have been in to wish her well. Some of them have brought their daughters there their whole lives, from first communion to eighth grade graduation, to prom, to their weddings.
"One mom said to me today 'Where am I going to shop?'" Hood said.
Hood said the store's staff will serve customers every day until June 30, and even some a bit longer. Hood will personally make wedding dress alterations for brides-to-be until their big day.
Hood said she initially discussed selling A L'Amour to local investors and letting the store continue on after she retired, but in the end decided to end on her terms.
"We decided to make this a clean break," Hood said. "I wanted to preserve the reputation that the business had and close things maintaining that."