VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Patty Ritzi has built her life upon making people's special days, extra special.
She's the co-owner of Premier Events in Virginia Beach, a company dedicated to providing decor and entertainment services across Hampton Roads and the East Coast.
If you walk inside the company's warehouse, you'll find rows and rows of filled shelves, which are a physical example of nearly three decades of work.
Now the decor sits idle and it has since March 12. The effects of COVID-19 are to blame for the pause in partying.
"To have something like this just completely shut us down - it's just overwhelming," Patty says. "This is worse for us than 9/11."
Scheduled events have been canceled and weddings have been postponed. Co-owners Patty and Lional have been forced to lay off staff.
"We were heartbroken to have to lay off our team. We have a great team and they are very loyal and very hard-working," she says. At this point, both the staff and customers are more like family than friends.
To get by themselves, the couple has even had to pick up side jobs. It's an unexpected turn of events, but the only way to keep the bills paid.
Patty says the experience has been humbling.
She's now working at McDonald Garden Center watering house plants. She says it's not the same workflow as event planning, but is relaxing and easy working with a wonderful staff.
Lional is now spending his days delivering for Amazon. The side income is keeping them going and the government's Paycheck Protection Program is offering some temporary relief.
"I went yesterday and actually signed the loan papers - our main concern being that [the loan is] going to bring our employees back for eight weeks, but after that we’re still uncertain and we don’t know potentially what could happen," Patty says with a sigh.
Despite the standstill now, they hope customers start looking ahead to next year.
Considering events like weddings take about a year to plan, they're optimistic that people will start reaching out now to get a head start.
"We still have inquiries coming in for weddings for more information [and we're] still sending out some proposals. People are just not signing a contract because they’re not sure if that date's gonna work."
Patty and Lional say they will not accept this as the new normal because they're confident their company and the rest of the country will bounce back.
"The party's never really over," they say with a smile.