Veronica Romanenko and her family run Overstocked, a bin business in Temecula, and she goes through merchandize by the truckload.
Churn, churn, churn, more than 20,000 new items are introduced to customers every week.
When she came across a wedding dress in a box, she thought, hmmm, that’s different, before putting it aside to look at later. In a store that advertises toys, electronics, furniture and home appliances on its website, a wedding dress is an outlier.
“We buy blindly and we never know what we’re going to get,” said Romanenko, who runs the business with her husband, Alexander, and son, Marco.
The wedding dress worn by a northern California resident about one year ago somehow ended up at the Temecula business run by Veronica Romanenko and her family. (Courtesy of Veronica Romanenko)
Eventually she put it out for sale and got no takers — even at $10.
“The reason it didn’t sell was because it was one of a kind,” Romanenko said. “It had to take the right person.”
She also thought it might have been a fake. How does something as precious as a wedding dress end up on a giant truck with thousands of other items?
A friend of Romanenko’s noticed it and told her that’s somebody’s dress and you should try to find who that somebody is.
Romanenko found the name on a box and took to social media and a couple different platforms there before finally tracking down that somebody: Jesslyn Lopez, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
It was a dress far from home.
Romanenko reached out to her on what turned out to be the day before Lopez’s one-year wedding anniversary.
Lopez was in Texas at the time preparing to be — of all things — a maid of honor.
“I was so happy,” Lopez said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Lopez had shipped the gown to her mom in Texas to be cleaned and preserved in a box that was to be sent back to the family. Except it got lost on the way back home.
Of course, Lopez was upset and complained to the shipping company, even filing a police report. But despite her best efforts, no dress.
“Months and months went on,” she recalled. “We started losing hope that we may never see it again … I’ve never lost anything this personal and not replaceable.”
Once she got word that the dress had been rescued, she immediately made plans to drive from the Bay area to Romanenko’s business on Jefferson Avenue in Temecula.
“No way was I going to trust it going back through the mail system,” Lopez said.
It was quite the reunion for Lopez and her dress.
She is forever grateful to the Romanenkos for taking the time to track her down.
“It keeps me hopeful that there are still good people out there that care about the well being of others and others’ happiness,” she said.
It’s not the first time that Romanenko has reunited somebody with a valuable keepsake.
She once came across a purse that belonged to Aleyda Trocones, of Stockton.
“It had $1,000 in it and hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards that she was supposed to be giving to her grandchildren,” she remembered.
Once again, she tracked down the owner and reunited the beloved item and the person.
Romanenko said she and her husband try to always do the right thing, even the little stuff such as returning a shopping cart instead of just leaving it to the side in the parking lot.
“We know what it is to struggle and to not have anything,” she said. “So it feels really good to do the right thing and especially to see their faces in shock that there’s still honest people in the world.”
Reach Carl Love at firstname.lastname@example.org