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2020 has BEEN A YEAR!

Let me explain.

Apart from the pandemic and all the fallout as a result, this was the year I opened another Flagship location - literally as the pandemic started. My new Ashville location, London and Lace/ Ashville Collective, had just kicked off it’s grand opening on March 6th, 2020 - insert face palm. Yeah, the timing wasn’t great to say the least.

We were hopeful, though and did everything we could do just to keep our heads above water. No amount of planning could have prepared us for what happened in the subsequent months. As this was happening, I also moved my studio to a new location. We had a wonderful 2019 and were on this fantastic upward trajectory. The new space reflected this growth. Not only is it twice the size but I now have this lovely Bride Room to see local clients - something I had never focused energy on previously. All of this was happening with the pandemic as a backdrop.

I had to pivot, and quickly, because with the scary news of this dangerous Novel virus spreading, how could we focus on much else? There were a few months, between mid March and the beginning of May, that I converted my workroom to a mask making studio. First using muslin and silk scraps, then eventually collecting fabrics donations from local fabric stores and individuals. We made over 5000 masks and mask covers for hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities. I vaguely remember cutting and sewing masks while switching between listening to podcasts of Covid news and to Dale Carnegie’s’ How to stop Worrying and Start Living.

It all seems like a blur.

As this insane year is coming to a close and we are optimistic that normal is on it’s way back… I can’t help but reflect on all the lessons I’ve learned.

These can apply to business or just everyday life:

1. Never take anything for granted. I know it’s cliché but this is the year to count your blessings.

Every. Single. One.

2. Be Prepared. Just because things are working out well now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continually plan for the worst. If this year taught us anything, it is that you can never have a “well, that won’t happen to me” moment. Have a back-up plan and a back-up for the back-up… I’m not just talking about toilet paper (although, not a bad idea to have some extra). I mean, make sure you have a buffer or cushion just in case you run into tough times.

3. Take care of your relationships. This goes along with the first lesson. Don’t take people in your life for granted. Be there for them and they will be there for you - even if it is only virtually. Bury the hatchet and reconnect with people you’ve lost touch with. You may never see them again.

4. Create a zoom account and learn how to use it. As much as we hate it, this is the future. Once it’s established that business can go on efficiently this way, most won’t go back to face to face and traditional office spaces.

Whew, there’s so much more to mention but those are the big ones.

For a personal anecdote, my husband is a software engineer. He used to commute to work 40 minutes each way. Now he is permanently working from home. It has become one of the silver linings of this whole time. He can now work with our son who is in the first grade and is there when he gets off the bus in the afternoon. With populations growing and carbon emissions increasing due to workers commuting, it only makes sense to keep this up because it’s less expensive for the employer and better for the environment. Most employees prefer it too.

When it comes to downtime for me, I was able to pick back up some hobbies I forgot to make time for pre Covid.

Running is a form of therapy to me. I ran every single day in order to keep my body and mind clear during this crazy time. If you have never thought of running as a form of relaxation please try it and thank me later. I watched Tiger King and became obsessed like everyone else. I even started to paint again which is a hobby I have left on the back burner since becoming a designer. It was nice to take it back to where it all began.

This pandemic pulled people apart but it also brought people together. I cherish the time I was able to spend with my children and my husband. There really is a silver lining in everything, even one as simple as watching a movie with my kids when I would normally be sewing.

So, what do I want out of 2021? One of my biggest hopes for Barbara Kavchok Bridal in the new year is to connect with more brides - whether local or across the country, I want to establish relationships and learn more about the brides I have the pleasure to work with. I plan to grow my social media presence and be a prominent voice on Instagram, Facebook and even Tik Tok. My goal is to show the real stuff; I want to show what goes on behind the scenes of an intimate bridal atelier and studio in the hearts of downtown Bethlehem. My new space will allow me to engage with more local brides in our Bride Room and learn about their dream wedding dress. My hope is that the new year will bring opportunities to get back to normal - attending trunk shows and NYBFW for example. Who doesn’t miss the hustle and bustle of the city during NYBFW?

The whole reason I became a designer and started my own business is to help brides find their dream wedding dress. My business is constantly growing; I plan to give back and set aside more for charities I feel deserve more attention and have great meaning to me. If 2020 taught me anything, it is that we must care for each other.

I want 2021 to be the year of new beginnings, old traditions and giving back to my community. I think we can all agree the “3..2...1.. Happy New Year” countdown is a sign of hope, for all of us. <3

- Barbara

This is one of our favorite sayings. It’s part of our brand ethos that we live by. There is something exciting about lifting others up! It’s desirable to be part of a community and not off on your own. Why create competition when you can cultivate relationships?

We build relationships within our community by working with local photographers, hair and makeup artists, and other creatives as often as we can. We attend mixers and work with local publications, too. While we do work with many creative professionals in the industry near and far from the Lehigh Valley, it feels extra special to have a core group of individuals we know we’ll always be able to bond with and count on.

Over the summer, we moved into our new studio space on the west side of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Growing into a new space during a global pandemic yielded its own unique challenges but nothing our team couldn’t handle. We're close to Main Street where there's always something going on - and right now it looks like the most magical little Christmas town! Being so close to Main Street makes it even easier to support local restaurants and breweries when we're in need of an after-work happy hour, too! (Heyyy Apollo Grill & Lost Tavern Brewing!)

We're in a space now that allows us to continue to grow, produce more beautiful wedding gowns, and meet with brides for one-on-one bridal appointments.

Fun Fact - Because of its name, Bethlehem is nicknamed "Christmas City USA"

Other notable Bethlehem facts:

· We have the oldest bookstore in America – Moravian Book Shop

· We’re home to the #2 Historic Hotel in the US - Hotel Bethlehem

· The US’s largest free music festival takes place here – Musikfest

· Barbara is an avid runner and enjoys taking part in the Runner’s World half marathon (shout out to Aardvark Sports Shop, too!) and she’s a proud Golden Hawk alum of Bethlehem Catholic High School.

There are times when speaking about our Bethlehem design studio can feel subpar though... Brides or industry friends expect you to say you're in an industrial loft in a major city or that you run an entire warehouse filled to the brim, bustling with gowns. But that's just not how we do things.

Yes, our 2000+ square foot bridal room and design studio in the eastern PA suburbs may seem modest to some, but it means that our quality control is like none other. It means we can creatively communicate with our whole team with ease. There are always collaborative design efforts and conversations going on, our team is close-knit and everything is cared for with the utmost attention to detail.

When you visit our atelier or buy one of our gowns, you just know that there’s a sense of pride in what we do. Our roots are here and it shows that we’re comfortable in this workspace and excited about doing what we love in a place we love. Growing up in the same city that you got to help build a business in is an extraordinary feeling! It’s our goal to give you that same extraordinary feeling when you wear one of our gowns.

Some of our favorite people to collaborate with in this community and the work we’ve done together are shown below. Check out their work and show them some love if you get the chance – on social media or by booking them for your own occasions – because that’s what we’re all about: Community Over Competition.

- The Barbara Kavchok Team

From Top Left to Bottom Right Photo Credits are as Follows:

- Barbara Kavchok Atelier - Photo by Zachary Hartzell Photography, Hair & Make Up by Alisha Nycole + Co

- Hotel Bethlehem marble staircase photo shoot

- Lehigh Valley Style feature by Alison Conklin Photography

- Allium Floral Design arch and bouquet in Fox and Finch Studios by Alison Conklin

- Fox and Finch Vintage Rentals & Studio by Zachary Hartzell Photography and Alisha Nycole + Co Hair and Make Up

- Bethlehem Steel, SteelStacks photo shoot

- Pocono Palms Styled Shoot by Elle Studios Photography