Few industries have been as hard hit during the pandemic as the wedding industry. Couples have had to change dates on numerous occasions and constantly alter plans for invitation lists and so on.
It’s a fact known only too well by Julia Foley owner of Ever After Bridal Boutique which carries a wide selection of both new and consignment clothing, including gowns for special occasions.
“The impact has been devastating,” says Julia who has tried to remain busy while working at home.
“I took a seven week course through the Small Business Advisory Centre and took part in the Digital Main Street Program as well. But mine is a business where you really have to come in and experience the fitting of the dress and so on. It’s all about the experience. It’s their happy moment.”
While many retailers have switched to online sales, it isn’t really an option for Julia.
“Some of my items are on consignment, they’re not mine. What if I sent something out and it’s returned with damage? I couldn’t have that,” she maintains.
Julia has found the government regulations to be simply too restrictive.
“I feel that what we do is as essential as some other businesses. You take a large chunk out of the local economy when you eliminate weddings,” she points out.
“I don’t see any reason why small businesses couldn’t be open. We are far safer and take far more precautions than the big box stores do,” says Julia who grew up in the hamlet of Balderson just outside of Perth where her parents operated a vacation farm as a bed-and-breakfast.
“Growing up I learned how to make friends fast and the importance of hospitality,” she recalls. “I helped with the family business. Throughout the years it seemed I always had my feet inside a restaurant.”
It was these experiences that eventually led Julia to a career in event planning and management.
“Eventually, I enrolled in the hotel and restaurant management course at college,” she points out.
Along the way, she literally married the boy next door.
“Yeah he really was the boy next door and he’s been extremely supportive with my career,” reflects Julia.
Although she founded L.O.V.E. – Local Ottawa Valley Events – these days Julia does very little in the way of wedding planning.
“I’m still an officiant and can renew people’s vows for them etc. and I’ll still help with the planning, as a favour for a friend, but these days weddings are so small that there’s not a lot of planning needed.”
For Julia it’s been a double whammy since one of the other markets she catered to was the travel industry.
“I used to sell to women going on a cruise who were looking for something special to wear on the formal night on the ship, but, of course, that’s all been shut down as well.”
Julia recently hired two models and a photographer to do a photo shoot of her inventory, but she’s had to put them on hold.
“For me, it’s been a total pause. It’s tough to stay positive,” reflects the young lady from Balderson whose upbringing on the farm will no doubt help to see her through the challenge.