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BUSINESS MONDAY: Spotlight on Berkshire Wedding Associates and Tux Express

For more than three decades, Jerrid Burdick has been helping to promote the Berkshires as a premier wedding destination, matchmaking couples with local vendors for a happily-ever-after celebration.

“Thank you so much for the wonderful music for our wedding. You did such an awesome job, we would HIGHLY RECOMMEND you to anyone! Your professionalism and attention to detail were appreciated. Roger and the guys were very impressed with the quality of the tuxedos. Thank you so much for making our day so special. — website testimonial by Shaunna and Roger Houle

“We just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for all the hard work that you do. Without TheBerkshireWeddingExpo.com, finding the right people to make our wedding amazing would have been very difficult! I am definitely going to miss going to all the events!”—website testimonial by Jaycee and Michael Giddens

After a difficult period for the wedding industry due to COVID, the Berkshire Wedding Expo has returned to full operation and expanded its event from one to two days. The seasonal show, which brings together vendors of wedding-related services and products and couples planning weddings, features booths, fashion shows, tastings, contests, and other activities. This year’s event was held on January 13 and 14 at the Stationary Factory in Dalton.

The expo is sponsored by Berkshire Wedding Associates, founded by Jerrid Burdick, who also owns Tux Express, a shop at 313 North Street in Pittsfield that rents, sells, and tailors men’s tuxedos and suits for weddings, proms, and other occasions. Berkshire Wedding Associates provides networking, marketing, and other services for its members, including photographers, event venues, caterers, florists, formal-wear suppliers, and entertainers. In addition to the expo, the organization also holds site tours of venues, workshops, and other events. According to the website, members must be based in the Berkshires to keep business in the county and remain in good standing to protect potential clients. In turn, the company offers referrals at no additional cost to active members, drawing on Burdick’s experience as a fellow owner of a local mom-and-pop shop.

The enterprise has weathered several lean years since 2020, when the pandemic emerged and caused widespread shutdowns of businesses and events, including weddings. “In early 2020, before COVID, we had a very successful Berkshire Wedding Expo, and everyone was looking forward to a great year,” Burdick recalls. “But then, in March, everything came to a halt.”

Since then, the wedding economy has endured a gradual but erratic recovery as COVID alternately faded and resurged. The continuing uncertainty made some couples hesitant about scheduling weddings. “In 2021 and 2022, we started to regroup,” he says. “Things came back, and in 2023, we had our first Berkshire Wedding Expo since 2020. But it was not yet like it was before COVID. Now, it is finally returning to normal.” He says attendance at the 2024 expo was still somewhat lower than in pre-pandemic years. “That reflects national trends. There is still a ripple effect from the pandemic. But in the months since the expo, we’ve seen more couples planning weddings again.”

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Jerrid Burdick modeling the merchandise. Photo courtesy Berkshire Wedding Associates

From the farm to the formal wear industry

Burdick, who grew up on a farm in the small town of Florida, Mass., has been in the men’s formal wear and wedding business since the early 1990s. He says he found his calling at an early age. “Ever since I was a kid, I have been good at taking measurements. I could practically feel the numbers on the measuring tape.” One day, his mother took him into her sewing room. “It turns out she was a master seamstress, and she told me that it runs in her family,” he states. “She said that God gave me a talent, and it was my ticket off the farm if I wanted that.”

While he was in high school, he started working for a formal wear shop in North Adams. As he assumed more responsibilities, he learned about the industry’s business side. His next step occurred when he received a job offer from a tuxedo supplier in Albany, N.Y. “They offered me a really good salary if I’d move to Albany,” he says. “Instead, I made a counteroffer to set up a tuxedo business [in North Adams] that would offer in-home service.”

Burdick and a friend, Craig Richardson, started the precursor of Tux Express in 1993 while attending Berkshire Community College. When Richardson moved out of the area in 1995, Burdick continued on his own. To supplement his income, he started working for Shine Wire in North Adams. In 1996, he organized his first wedding expo in North Adams, expanding with events in central and south Berkshire County.

In the late 1990s, Burdick experienced a difficult period when he could not support his business and personal expenses. Acknowledging that he had spread himself too thin, he confides, “I was trying to be something I’m not and was spending money I didn’t have. My friends and family had to help me, and I was sleeping on people’s couches.”

He finally got back on his feet through a pattern that has occurred several times in his life. “When I’ve most needed it, someone has come along who offered to mentor me and support my efforts,” he comments. “I have a spiritual belief that these things happen because they were meant to.” Burdick is referring to when Tuxedo Junction, a large national business that supplied his tuxedos, invited him to their corporate headquarters. “The owner offered me a Plan A or a Plan B,” he explains. “Plan A was to move to Cleveland or Pennsylvania to work at one of their stores. Plan B was for them to help me open my own store in the Berkshires. I took Plan B.”

With their backing, he opened Tux Express in the Berkshire Mall in 1998. Although Tuxedo Junction provided support to help him launch the business, Burdick operated Tux Express independently. In addition to the shop, he continued to organize wedding shows.

Burdick points to 1999 as a turning point on several levels. Needing more space than was available at the mall, he moved into his current location on North Street. “At that time, downtown Pittsfield was declining as business and shoppers were moving to the mall,” he reflects. “I did just the opposite and went from the mall to downtown.”

Burdick says he felt confident that the move would succeed because of the lower rent and the fact that Tux Express is a specialized destination business that does not rely on casual foot traffic. He also reorganized the expo from three smaller events in different sections of the county to a single one in the central Berkshires.

Current suits and vests on display at Tux Express at 313 North Street in Pittsfield. Photo by John Townes

He had another unexpected professional boost in 2001 when a leader in the formal wear industry contacted him unexpectedly. “I received an e-mail from Gino’s Fashion on Long Island about working with them, and I spoke on the phone with a pleasant woman there,” he said. “Then, an hour later, I got a call from this blunt guy who immediately started grilling me about my business. I was taken aback because he was getting very personal.” The calls were from Paul and Joyce Pannone, who operated their own business, published a newsletter for the formal wear industry, and advocated for independent companies under pressure due to consolidations by large corporations. “They invited me to a party on Long Island, and Joyce took me around and introduced me to all of these industry members,” Burdick recalls. “I couldn’t figure out what was happening.”

Then Paul Pannone explained it to him: “He said he had put me through hell on the phone for a reason,” Burdick explains, adding, “He was evaluating me. He said the difference between me and the other people at the party is that I grew up on a farm and am down-to-earth and approachable. He wanted me to function as a go-between for him, shops, and manufacturers because of my ability to work with people.” This led to a close business and personal relationship with the couple. “They became mentors,” he comments. “It was very beneficial because it helped me restore my credit, build up my stock, and learn how to produce better wedding shows.”

In the following years, Burdick continued to refine and build the business at Tux Express, and in 2002, he developed Berkshire Wedding Associates. In 2004, he added a website. “It was a rapid success,” he says. “The website promoted the expo and became a networking and marketing resource for vendors and people planning weddings.”

He emphasizes that reaching this point has been a team effort. “I couldn’t have done this alone,” Burdick says. “I was only able to promote the wedding industry while running Tux Express because of the support of many people.” Among others, he credits his former wife Diane and brother Matthew as instrumental.

Burdick (center) and team in a Facebook post marking the 31st anniversary of Tux Express. Photo courtesy Tux Express

Burdick also stresses that he was fortunate to have survived the pandemic decline in weddings, having launched a sideline business in 2018 when CBD was legalized in Massachusetts. This operation functioned as a distributor of hemp and other cannabinoids with a focus on therapeutic use in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—of which Burdick is a firm believer. “I got lucky because the income from that business enabled me to get through the difficult period of COVID,” he shares.

Looking forward, he says his focus is now on expanding Tux Express into southern Vermont following the closing of a major formal wear business there. He is also planning a redesign of the website to enhance its services and content. “One silver lining of that pandemic period was that it gave me the time to evaluate our business and make plans to continue building for the future,” he says.

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