If this issue had an unofficial theme, it might be: persevering through difficult times.
    I say this because our main story, Battling Cancel Culture, talks in detail about three boutiques that endured intense, unpleasant and disruptive backlash from the cancel-culture mob due to situations that were no fault of their own, only to come out stronger on the other end. Also, this issue’s VOWS Profile, Modern Bride & Formal Shop in Bedford, N.H., has weathered quite a few crises through its 35 years in business and, in spite of them all, is absolutely thriving today.


Back in April 2020, shortly after the government-ordered shutdowns began, I was on a call discussing the rapidly-evolving COVID situation with a well-known industry figure when he told me, an unmistakable note of trepidation in his voice, that he feared it could be August 2020 before things returned to normal.
   At that time, I was shocked by his prediction, which felt decidedly pessimistic and forever away. Circumstances had changed so drastically and rapidly and felt so foreign that I had a hard time imagining the world continuing this way for three more weeks, much less throughout the whole summer. My own projection was decidedly more cheerful – by the start of June 2020 things would be normal!
    I really believed that was true.
   Fast-forward more than a year: I want to laugh at how naïve I was! If you had told me then that we would still be dealing with this pandemic now, approaching summer 2021, the thought would’ve been unsettling and depressing.
    The reality, however, is that when I look back on these past 15 months, daily life hasn’t felt nearly so overwhelming or negative. This past year introduced a lot of uncertainty, change and concerns, yes, but there were also plenty of good moments: lessons learned, beneficial changes made, relationships renewed. I’m not lying when I say I’m incredibly grateful for the positive changes I made in my life, many of which would likely not’ve happened if the pandemic hadn’t forced me to slow down. I’ve grown as a person because of it.
    Often times life lessons mirror those in business, and that is one of the biggest takeaways I had from reviewing the responses to our follow-up survey. Many of the changes you’ve made to your businesses as the result of the COVID pandemic have proven beneficial. “Unprecedented challenges don’t have to bring about despair,” one respondent told us. Added another, “I’ve completely shifted my business objectives in a way I never imagined and I’m happy with it!”
    I thought that was a perfect summary of this past year.
    Our survey in the May/June issue gives an in-depth look at the industry now, more than a year after COVID began. The takeaway? While the pandemic still isn’t over, things are now rapidly heading toward normal. Only it will be a new normal, not in the sense the media and health professionals have continuously used this term, but in the sense your business will emerge stronger, more resilient and more confident because of what it went through.
    Check it out in the May/June issue of VOWS. And an enormous thank you to each and every store that took the time to answer our questions. VOWS is what it is because of your participation, and we are so grateful!