Nancy Aucone, co-owner of The Wedding Salon in Manhasset, places...

Nancy Aucone, co-owner of The Wedding Salon in Manhasset, places a cathedral veil on bride-to-be Loren O'Connor. (August 2010) Credit: Sally Morrow

Before the recession, Nancy Aucone described it as "very easy" to sell a $10,000 wedding gown at The Wedding Salon of Manhasset.

But then some brides lost their jobs, says Aucone, company co-owner. Other brides, worried about the economic uncertainty, would hesitate before committing to a dress.

Aucone, who had just opened a new Vera Wang store next door, refused to give up the luxury market. Instead, the store embraced Wang's new lower-priced line, brought in moderately priced collections from Chicago and extended store hours. "We survived," said Aucone.

Partner Susan Finale "and I stayed here [until] 11 o'clock at night figuring out bills and receipts and shuffling, everything that we had to do behind the scenes, for two years. But it worked, and it's working."

Aucone, 64, is married with three sons.

How did you learn how to manage?
"I think I was born as a manager. My husband will say that, too," she says with a laugh. "I like it. The management style here is . . . disciplined, extremely disciplined. Maybe compare it to an orchestra, where we just keep everything in sync and everything runs [smoothly].

Everything has to be cleaned up, everything has a place, stays in place. We never leave the store unless it's perfect. If I know something, I want [employees] to know it. I'm not the boss -- I hate the word boss. We really don't use it here."

 Why do you hate that word?
"I would like never to be a boss. I would just like it all done the way I'd like it done. It makes me uncomfortable to be a boss. I like to give out the rules and [have them] obey, and that means you really don't have to be too bossy."

What qualities do you look for in hiring?
"We're always, always interviewing. If I like somebody's friend with them, or I like one of our brides, we might approach them. A recent bride is the best consultant, because she's untrained. We like them untrained -- we'll train them about the merchandise -- but they have to have the personality, the hospitality, all of our criteria, energetic, and they have to absolutely love the bridal world."

A newlywed "knows absolutely everything that the new bride is going through -- she just did it. So she knows the venue shopping, she knows the flower shopping. Her conversation during this three- or four-hour time that they might be working is all about weddings."

What advice would you have for someone who wants to start a business?
"Do it. If they have the knowledge, I'd say go for it. The finances can always fall into place somehow. If you're creative enough, and if you're good enough and if you're smart enough, that part will work. I would not even hesitate. If we're all going to get scared because of the recession, we're never going to get out of it."