A BEAUTIFUL ROSE
Shirley Wilbert insists she’s going to retire soon.
“I keep telling them that this is going to be my last year,” she said, with her daughter Jami Wilbert-Patterson and granddaughter Jordan Jean Muter sitting nearby.
Jami and Jordan laughed.
“You say that, but we know the truth,” Jordan told her grandmother.
For more than 50 years, Wilbert has been making the guys and gals of Pittsburg look good at proms and weddings and really any event that requires a nice outfit. For three decades, it was at Jean Scene. The last 20 years has been at Rosa Bella on the corner of 5th and Broadway.
Throughout the years, Wilbert has seen it all. Changes in fashion. Changes in styles. Changes in the city.
“Back when we were really getting Jean Scene going,” she said, “downtown was busy. All the shops were open on Thursday nights. We had cars cruising up and down Broadway. There were a lot of people out.
“Things changed over the years and some of that went away, but I think we’re starting to see it come back. I think opening Block22 downtown was a great thing, and it’s really led to a lot of improvements downtown.”
“People were asking if I would get back into prom and wedding.”
Rosa Bella today offers a combination of home decor and Wilbert’s speciality, prom and wedding attire. But it wasn’t supposed to be like this.
“When I sold Jean Scene, I retired,” she said. “After a year, I decided to open this (Rosa Bella) as a home decor shop. I thought it would be something fun to do and something to offer the community.”
But when Jean Scene eventually closed, she started getting a few phone calls.
“People were asking if I would get back into prom and wedding,” she said.
Wilbert-Patterson said another factor was the encouragement they received from vendors they had worked with through Jean Scene.
“We were actually down at market looking for a wedding dress for Jordan,” she said. “A lot of the vendors there were the same ones we had known before, and we just started talking about getting back into it.”
The business quickly picked back up where Wilbert had left it at Jean Scene. Business was so good, in fact, a second Rosa Bella store opened in Joplin with Wilbert-Patterson as owner.
“I’m not sure retirement is really her thing.”
Muter said she has enjoyed seeing her grandmother continue to succeed in the formal attire business.
“It’s so cool because now when she sells to a young woman for a prom or a wedding, she’s also sold to her mother,” Muter said. “It’s a multi-generational thing, for sure.”
Muter, who manages The Barn at Timber Cove with her husband Robby, was part of one of those special moments in 2020 when they hosted a prom for high school students whose actual prom was canceled due to Covid.
“We had sold all of these dresses,” Wilbert said, “but these girls weren’t going to get to wear them. So we hosted a two-day prom event at The Barn for students in the Four States area.”
At 79 years young, Wilbert said she is feeling ready to turn the business over to “the girls.” Whether that will actually happen is a whole other thing.
“When you’ve worked so hard for so long, it’s not easy to just step aside and hand it over,” Muter said. “I’m not sure retirement is really her thing.”