Originally Published In Manayunk.com Magazine
When her career threatened to suffocate her, Sarah Holmes got creative. Which led her back to law. But a twist would make it far more sustainable this time around.
I like to say that I started my first business on a BoltBus winding its way out of Manhattan. At the time, I had a five-month-old baby and I was six years into a career as an attorney that left me stifled, personally and creatively. Feeling alternately inspired and panicked by my weekend away, I developed my first ideas for what would become Gritty City Philadelphia.
For six months, I made skincare products and soy candles in my kitchen when I came home from work. On weekends, I rented a booth or a table at local craft fairs to market and sell them. Eventually, the candles outsold everything else by a huge margin, and Gritty City became a hand-poured candle company.
I worked my tail off through the next couple of years, exhibiting at New York and Atlanta trade shows, and twice at the Manayunk Arts Festival. By the end of 2012, Gritty City candles were sold in about 100 stores across the country.
Along the way, I began to cross paths with other small business owners who started in their kitchens, garages and basements. Before long, they were asking if I could refer them to a lawyer who specialized in small business issues. Then it finally hit me: I could be that person.
I outsourced my candle production, shut down my Kensington studio and started searching for an office in Manayunk. Almost immediately, I found a spot on Cotton Street that was perfectly suited for my new practice—and for fulfilling a secret dream. It was multiple levels, but it was small. Just the kind of space I envisioned for an intimate, European-style gourmet shop.
My husband, a culinary school grad, and I occasionally fantasized out loud about opening a little gourmet/kitchen shop together. Imagine his surprise when I got home that night and reported my news.
Petit Gourmand opened late last summer. In one of my first official acts as a shop owner, I started filling out our inventory with wares from the local business owners I met during my candle days—Volta Organics soap, Girls Can Tell tea towels, dop dop designs potholders and aprons, No Bull Beauty cleansers and tonics. I reached out to Rival Bros. Coffee, too, and asked to sell
their Philly-roasted beans.
I discovered Rock the Roll barbecue sauce at a local craft market and got wind of Saint Lucifer Spice, which, it turned out, launched in Manayunk. Local chocolate was, of course, a must.
We source ours from John & Kira’s, here in Philly, and Éclat, in West Chester. I’m always scouting more artisans to represent, one way or the other. And this is just the start.
Sarah Holmes owns Petit Gourmand (103 Cotton Street; www.petitgourmandphila.com) with her husband Dan. She’s also an attorney who specializes in small business law (www.phillysmallbusinesslawyer.com).
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