KINGSTON, Pa. -- A business owner in Luzerne County is helping another business owner in Lackawanna County get through a difficult year. They knew each other through owning local businesses in the wedding industry, but an act of kindness has created a special friendship.
All things Christmas have taken over Mattern's Flower Shop in Kingston. It is the busiest time of year for the more than 100-year-old business, but for Michelle Valentino, this is only her second holiday season. She bought the business from the Mattern family last November. A year later, she is taking on a whole new project, but this one is a little more personal.
"This isn't a business project. This was done on a handshake," Valentino explained.
On one side, Mattern's looks like it always has, with its unique gifts and stunning flower arrangements. On the other side, a room that was used for storage in now the Darling Dress pop-up shop.
"Every employee here, I think it just speaks volumes. It's obviously a lot of work for everybody, but they didn't have a problem with it at all," Valentino said.
Victoria Donahue was born and raised in Dunmore and opened the Darling Dress, a bridal boutique in downtown Scranton in 2015.
"Provide the area with something a little bit different than we were used to seeing," Donahue explained talking about when her shop first opened.
After three years in the business and with three young kids at home, Tori announced she would be closing the dress shop in 2019 when her lease was up.
"Trying to balance taking care of my brides and customers and taking care of my family. I really felt like I was constantly torn between the two and having to choose. Of course, at the end of the day, my family is always going to come first," she said.
Then in September, an already tough year for Tori and her family became a nightmare. Tori's 8-year-old son, Luca, a second grader at Dunmore, was diagnosed with leukemia. He was sent to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"That was the start of what is to be a three-and-a-half to four-year journey of getting him back to full health," Donahue said.
Being in Philly sometimes three days a week for treatment, Tori decided she could not wait until 2019. In early November, the Darling Dress in downtown Scranton closed its doors for good, with about 75 wedding gowns left unsold.
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"I have two little girls, so I think it's every mother's worst nightmare to hear that, and I heard how stressful it was going to be for her, and I didn't even think, I was just like, 'Hey, we have space. Do you want it?'" Valentino recalls.
"I was just shocked a little bit. I didn't know how to respond. I wasn't expecting that," Donahue said.
"After I walked out, I realized there was a lot of people I didn't even ask, including my husband," Valentino explained.
Her husband was on board, and in just a few hours, Michelle turned a storage room into the Darling Dress pop-up shop. Michelle says Tori can use the space until all of the gowns and accessories are sold.
"The fact that she made that possible and is giving me a place to offload the rest of my inventory without having to physically be here and sell it myself is just amazing," Donahue said.
Now for Tori, the thought of putting the gowns she has fallen in love with in boxes or storage does not have to become a reality.
"I'm sure there is someone out there that is perfect for one of these dresses. They just haven't met their match yet."
Tori tells Newswatch 16 her son Luca is in the most intense part of his treatments right now, but he is staying positive and doing well.
Michelle wants to point out that she has no plans to officially open a wedding dress shop. She says although she does not have any bridal boutique experience, she can answer questions about pricing and direct clients to the seamstress the Darling Dress has always used.