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As in-person events return, Idaho small businesses see rebound

After COVID-19 restrictions shuttered much of the economy, small businesses like caterers and bridal shops are seeing renewed interest as in-person events return.

BOISE, Idaho — When the coronavirus pandemic began making its way across the globe, in-person events and businesses that depended on them were often the first casualties when the economy came to a screeching halt. Entering the summer of 2021, some businesses in the Treasure Valley are finding new opportunities and challenges as the economy begins its slow recovery.

“I’ve been in the bridal industry for 23 years and this is definitely one that I will remember forever,” Jaylee Patterson, a partner at Margene’s Bridal in Boise, told The 208.

As her story goes, like for many others, events like weddings were postponed indefinitely a year ago, making for a new tough reality for shops that depended on events, such as Patterson's bridal shop.

“Yes, it was very touch and go. Like, is a wedding happening is it not happening, but brides were resilient,” Patterson said.

The past year has been very challenging for small businesses, but Patterson said things are now looking up.

“More so than probably ever in the past year, brides are excited and they want to start planning and they see kind of the light at the end of the tunnel,” Patterson said.

A year ago, KTVB spoke with business owner Whitney Fredin, who described some of the challenges her business, Whitney Fredin Catering & Events, was facing. Now, it is a totally different story.

“Yeah it’s been busy, very busy,” Fredin said. “We’ve just been slammed, like way busier than we obviously were last year but even I would say busier than the years before that too.”

Fredin said it's been great for her and her team to see so much business lately as more and more events are going on again.

“We’ve done a lot of events where people haven’t seen their families for over a year and they are getting together and they want a really special menu and that’s been fun to come up with some fun things that we haven’t done in the past just to celebrate these momentous occasions with people,” Fredin said.

From the spectrum of experiences from the last year, now is leaning towards normal, which is certainly a welcome sign from businesses fueled by in-person events.

“It’s definitely more normal to have groups come in the store and help their brides. During the beginning, we were doing a lot of facetime and Zooming with our brides with people all over the country. Now, they are flying in and helping them celebrate the day they find their dress and it’s really fun and exciting,” Patterson said.

Fredin agreed that it’s a great change of pace.

“It’s welcomed, it’s been fun to get back meeting with people and feeling their energy. Everybody is excited for the events they are hosting. I think the vaccine is making it really happy for everyone to get together,” Fredin said.

With that all said, business owners still face plenty of new challenges. Fredin said one recent challenge is having enough staff to take advantage of all of the new opportunities. Fredin's business and others are having to turn down some opportunities due to staffing issues.

“It’s a challenge to be a business owner and feel like you have to limit the amount of work that you can take on when the demand is there because you don’t have the labor force produce the work and back it up,” Fredin said.

Still, business owners will likely say they are much better off now than a year ago.

“Everybody is saying how they missed it, they come to work and are working more hours now and they are really enjoying their time that we have together, for sure,” Fredin said.

Patterson said finally getting to see wedding photos from her clients really sets a great tone moving forward.

“The joy is just so positive. I think after everything that’s gone on this last year, people want joy they want happiness and they want to celebrate with people that they love. So, it's motivating and inspiring to keep coming to work and helping these women find amazing dresses,” Patterson said.

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