Interview Biography: Mara Urshel

The Change in a Destiny, With One Gut Feeling

Kleinfeld’s Queen; Mara Urshel

We’ve all been there, where we started out our lives doing something that we thought was our dream. Whether it was marrying that one person we thought was our other half, finding that “perfect” job, or expecting to stay in one city our whole life. But things, people, places, and eventually you, grow. The world moves forward, and with it new opportunities come and go as quickly as the changing weather. “I think most of your decisions in life have to do with a gut feeling,” says Kleinfeld’s co-owner, Mara Urshel.

We’ve all started down a path in our life that we thought would be our destiny and then events take place and eventually takes our destiny for a 180-degree turn. Mara Urshel was born in Latvia, in the Baltic Islands, and then moved to Michigan, USA with her family. She graduated from the University of Michigan with her Masters degree in Bio Chemistry at 26. Shortly after graduation, her career took its first big turn into retailing when she moved to Washington D.C. Within three years at the prominent retail store, Garfinckel’s, that catered to clients such as the Kennedys, she was asked to become a buyer. “I was offered the job as a buyer, but I knew nothing of the industry. But sometimes you just have to pick up the ball and run with it,” says Urshel.

After being in the industry as a buyer for a short time, Urshel learned quickly. As Garfinckel’s was declining as a department store, she was asked to move to New York City and become a buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue. She was there for twenty years and earned her way to becoming the fashion director of the luxury department store. “You have to always keep adjusting to what’s going on in the world. That’s retail,” says Urshel. And certainly, the world kept moving. So in 1999 she became the co-owner of Kleinfeld Bridal, with her partner Ronnie Rothstein.

Kleinfeld Bridal was moved to its location in Chelsea eight years ago. With 30,000 square feet to move around in, it is one of the largest department stores, especially for New York City. “I started shopping around for architects who do hotels. I finally found one who worked on The Plaza and The W. And so, I set up Kleinfeld as a mini department store. My right hand being marketing, PR, and Merchandising,” says Urshel. She was in the effort of creating a dream come true for brides-to-be, and succeeded. With its high ceilings, elegant lighting, and large ethereal space, Kleinfeld Bridal sets a comfortable atmosphere for any bride. It’s not overwhelmed by dresses as if it’s a walkthrough of a factory, but instead coated with special dresses that stand out to the individual bride. “Most girls will be asked what designer dress is she wearing, but they don’t know, they don’t care at that moment, all they know is that they love their dress, and that’s all that matters. We can make John Smith a big name if we put enough marketing dollars down. It doesn’t matter,” says Mara Urshel.

“There are some tough decisions in the business, but you have to follow your gut. However small or big, whether it’s hiring someone, or as big as owning a business,” says Urshel. She created a bridal empire. From getting a degree in a polar opposite field, to owning her own business, she followed her path of opportunities. Her clear head, open mind, and open heart brought her to her success. “Once you have the fundamentals of business, I think you can assimilate that to anything you do,” says Urshel, “but I truly think most of your decisions have to do with a gut feeling.” It could be a spur of the moment opportunity, but if it feels right, take that ball and run with it for as long and as far as you can. Even if your dreamed destiny doesn’t seem to be playing out, you have to see where the world takes you in life, through the good, the bad, the triumphs, the downfalls, and the success.

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