You guys: have you ever felt that slow, bubbling excitement that creeps upon you unexpectedly and alerts you to impending positive energy and creativity – to something beautiful and exciting on the horizon?
I know I wax on about creativity and burn out and sabbaticals and my non-linear entrepreneurial journey a lot, but that’s because I thrive on reflection and that is what I’m doing constantly. For me things sometimes move slow like honey pouring out of a jar – but they are still moving even if it feels like they are not. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the idea of dramatic reveals and epiphanies – mine come slowly, a lot like honey, but also like this peony bloom.
I know that something lovely is coming, and I watch it with eager anticipation over weeks, thinking when will it bloom – and then on the day that it does, it unfurls slowly, and even more beautifully than I could have imagined, over still, a period of days. It’s an exercise in meditation and patience.
This peony inspired me to get out my camera and take a legit tabletop photo – something I adore doing but had to put aside for awhile. Something beautiful is reemerging in this season, like it always does after a period of dormancy. Nature is beautiful in its consistency and yet it always feels unexpectedly breathtaking at the sight of new growth and returning blossoms.
I am embarking on a new phase of Gather, one that I had intended to start from the beginning but along the way, it became other things – wonderful, beautiful things, but diversions from my ultimate goals. I love nothing more than driving down a winding back road and am grateful for each of the opportunities that have lead me here and all the things I wouldn’t have been able to see had I not explored other directions.
In stepping back for the past year and refining and editing what I really wanted to pursue and in looking for shared office space for my husband’s peppermint bark business as well as a place to house the goods from my online shop, we recognized the need for a space like what we had created with the original Gather: a cozy space that encourages community, is collaborative and feels like a home, filled with plants and light and like-minded individuals who are able to put their heads down and work when they need to but also to pop up and chat when they want to.
This really hit home after doing a year and a half of accidental research, when looking for our own small office we kept seeing the same thing: soulless spaces that weren’t resonating, none of them were Gather. We actually didn’t intend to embark on another big venture, instead we were planning on just ramping Gather up quietly behind the scenes but in all that looking for space we happened upon one that was only a few blocks from our own home and in the walkable downtown core of Cary, a community that we had truly fallen in love with after the first Gather shop here 4 or 5 years ago, and where we had moved just eight months prior.
My husband and I, despite all appearances, are actually quite risk-averse, and after extensive pro-con lists, deliberating, manifesting, praying and every other way you can think of decision making, recognized that this space was really a great option for us if we could get past the initial hesitation of jumping back into a new thing.
To me, the heart of my business has always been in facilitating and helping others, and in creating community and conversations that spotlight others, ideas and design. The shop, while a portion, was only a piece of it. In addition, I recognized a strong need to be more behind the scenes and less of a day to day retail shop but more of a private space that is only public facing occasionally and a space where I could continue to host classes and events but also a place where we could work out of quietly.
This new space, which we are calling Gather-Studios is only a few blocks from our home and right in the walkable core of downtown Cary and like the original Gather space it also has a back garden area (and also like the original it needs to be spruced up). I would love to offer this back garden space to an emerging flower farmer. I have other plans too, but for now it will be office space, an occasional showroom and classroom space.
There are a handful of office spaces available in the building and I have already leased out a few. If you are looking for a private office/studio space to rent, please get in touch. I am looking to get these filled asap and once they are gone, they won’t be available again for at least a year.
Here are more details about the space:
Gather-Studios, a new private work space in downtown Cary is currently looking for tenants. There are a limited amount of private offices available for 1 year lease terms. Ideal tenants are creative professionals who are looking for a quiet, collaborative community environment, curated by Michelle Smith of Gather Goods Co, who alongside her husband The Apothecary’s Kitchen will also have office space there. Photographers, Wellness Practitioners, Makers and Artists, and Design Professionals are a great fit, but you aren’t required to be one to lease space. In addition, Michelle will be hosting classes and private events in the front space as well as in the back garden patio. For more information please visit https://shop.gathergoodsco.com/pages/studios and email Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Henrietta Red is a beautiful Nashville, TN eatery specializing in seasonal cooking and oysters. The name comes from chef Julia Sullivan’s grandparents and is an homage to them. In addition to the restaurant they have a private event space next door for intimate gatherings and corporate events.
The combination here of concrete floors (a surface I’ve only recently become smitten with), wooden farm house table paired with white chairs and the warm touches brought in by the fabric pendant and textiles hanging from the wall, are perfect. I want to sit here and gather with friends.
I am really into restaurant interiors that have beautiful and special details. I think because of my own experience in event planning and my love of interior design, seeing how these spaces both function and flow, in well designed ways is really inspiring to me.
What a nice treatment of tile and grays and whites here on this wood oven, even the slight arch of the oven door mirrors the organic shape of the wood stacked above. My husband wants to build a pizza oven in our backyard, woudn’t something like this be lovely?
How cool is this type treatment and sign inside the restaurant. The cute dog sitting there doesn’t hurt either.
I love potted trees and this olive tree looks so good potted in this galvanized olive basket.
I work part-time as a food, prop & interior stylist so I always look at the names of the photographers in the magazines I read. I am endlessly inspired by their talent. Recently, I happened upon the work of Anson Smart, an Australian lifestyle photographer in the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living.
One of the biggest perks of this line of work is getting to see so many cool interiors and meeting really interesting people.
I love this blue denim fabric covered inspiration board covered in photos that Anson captured in someone’s home here. I actually also have a few denim covered pin boards in my house too. I like how they are just a little different than the traditional linen covered ones (or standard cork board) but still almost a neutral. I’m a sucker for a beautiful collection of ceramics too.
One of the things I do in my own home and the spaces that I design is use a lot of mirrors. Mirrors instantly bring brightness to a room by bouncing light and creating the illusion of bigger spaces and more rooms. They are especially lovely when placed in front of a light source or across from a window, or in front of plants, doubling your effect. I’ve also hopped on the white walls and gray trim trend that is on display here, though I haven’t really settled on it 100% in my home – half the trim in my house is painted gray and the other half isn’t while I’m still deciding…it’s been about three months…
I love this whimsical hand-lettered sign around this brass doorbell. I am always impressed by clever signage especially when businesses use them. I think smart and handsome signage can make a really nice finishing design touch.
Who doesn’t love a collection of straw hats and bags all in a row? This is a pretty display and is functional too. A secret of styling is that things always make a big impression when they are grouped together.
Bougainvillea is one of my favorite vining flowers and in parts of California and Mexico and other more tropical locales it is a perennial and blooms year-round. Here in the Piedmont area of North Carolina it is considered an annual but will bloom all the way from Spring until Fall. I have heard of some people who have brought theirs indoors to overwinter them, (though they don’t bloom during that time) and then they bring them outside again when it warms up. The thing to note about bougainvillea are their thick thorns that you have to watch out for. Regardless, whether you have your own or just admire them in a picture, they instantly transport you to a breezier state of mind.
I like a Windsor chair in small doses, I tend to like them when they are black and more rustic and organic looking. I like how these look alongside these textural abstract paintings.
I appreciate so much the ability to see things through someone else’s eyes, such as these photos by Anson Smart. His website features a vast array of work including food photography, lifestyle photography and portraits too.
I made this graphic a few years back and it serves as guiding principles to what my business, Gather, represents. These are the things that I think are important:
Shop Local: Neighborhood mom & pop shops used to be the norm. There is something amazing about knowing the person behind the counter and them knowing the community that you live in. Their product assortment reflects local trends and buying patterns versus what someone forecasts from afar as a national perspective. The goods local shops stock and sell tell a lot about your neighbors and the community you actually live in and their tastes and values – that’s fascinating. When you support your local businesses you are creating dynamic neighborhoods which help raise the quality of life across the board. Thriving shops create thriving communities. Also, shop owners are the unseen/under praised cog in an important economic wheel, they need your shopping dollars to stay afloat and pay their grocery and mortgage bills. They can’t do it without you. Lastly the dollars you spend at your local shops goes back to your local government and infrastructure and community so you are investing in where you live.
Support Local Makers: Many of the same things above are true here. Your neighbors are talented, oftentimes making high quality goods for less than the labor hours they are charging. You can find more unique gifts that enrich the lives of the recipient and the maker by purchasing locally made goods. You are also enabling and encouraging someone’s dream and that’s pretty amazing.
Inspire & Create Community: This is a big one for me. I do believe in the “be the change you wish to see in the world” mentality and for me spotlighting and showing others the incredible, not-yet-seen or less talked about facets of the people & spaces around me is my passion. Spotlighting others so that they can then become more successful and then helping them find other like-minded individuals and connect them to others, is a privilege and a natural extension of who I am.
Work With Your Hands: There is something so deeply cathartic and fulfilling in working with your hands, something that, as many of us head toward lives that are dominated by technology, often gets neglected. I believe it is good for our souls and mind to use our hands to create things, whether that is food, stories, art, flower arrangements, fixing things and on and on. Our bodies were meant to be used and when you start using your hands more your mind becomes soothed as well.
Never Stop Learning: There are so many cool things in the world, from researching a type of furniture to a new skill, learning makes others more compassionate towards others and also just interesting (and interested) people.
Love Your Neighbors: I believe strongly in being kind to everyone, to choosing to include and listen to others and their struggles and triumphs. It’s easy to stay in our own lanes and heads, but when we love and reach out toward our neighbors incredible community is created. This one goes in tandem with the above as many of the other points do.
Elevate the Everyday: This is about appreciating what-is, and the simplicity and grace of our everyday lives. There is so much beauty surrounding us, how can we make the lens through which we see the world be more positive, hopeful and beautiful? It’s not about making magic out of thin air or being overly and impractically optimistic, it is about recognizing that diamonds come from coal and seeing the beauty in the life that you have and the world that you live in, it’s about creating and living a beautiful life, wherever you are and with whatever you have and striving to maintain that perspective.
How about you? Are you a business that has guiding principles? Do you have any as an individual? What are they and why?
I first met Ana Maria Munoz at my Gather shop in downtown Cary three or four years ago. I was behind the counter slinging coffee and she was a customer, it was Small Business Saturday and she carried one of the totes that we were handing out free in honor of the event. And while Ana Maria was warm and engaging, the thing I noticed most about her was her sense of personal style. She had an “otherness” about her wardrobe that didn’t feel like it was native to the area. It felt more European and urban than things I was used to seeing around here – in a good way.
Flash forward to now and Ana Maria is just about to celebrate the second anniversary of her own store, Port of Raleigh in downtown Raleigh. This Saturday too is Small Business Saturday so it seems fitting to post about her shop now, though I’ve been wanting to do so for a long time. The thing that sets her shop apart is the same thing that I noticed with her wardrobe, it is impeccably curated with a modern, European/traveled flair that is literally unlike anything in the Triangle area.
Located in a new construction building in downtown Raleigh with big glass windows, pops of her signature industrial yellow on the walls, and polished concrete floors, Port of Raleigh is steps away from Poole’s (the best mac and cheese you’ll ever try) and the convention center. Inside you’ll find modern home goods, most of which are imported, think Japanese paper products and Danish metal accessories, but also goods from right here. She fosters and sells the work of a local furniture design company Flitch Furniture, and regularly features the work of local makers and NC State design school students in her First Friday events, all within the lens of modern home goods.
Recently her shop was featured on the very popular design blog, designmilk, and rightfully so. I have been fortunate to travel abroad to many countries as well as cities around the U.S. and my favorite pastime is exploring the shops. I am fascinated by how others merchandise their goods, the products they feature, the trends and patterns, the colors and layout of the shop. It is an absolute passion, nay obsession, and I have the pictures to prove it.
Ana Maria’s point of view is dictated by having lived in multiple countries herself and also having been well traveled and that perspective comes through in her merchandise mix and is her brand’s “north star”. In my opinion, Port of Raleigh is just as good as the best that I have seen, that it is here in the Triangle, NC area portends good things for this region. Lucky as that makes us, if we are even luckier she will find a way to share her perspective on apparel and fashion as well in the future – but understanding shop ownership the way I do, that is a big ask and a lot of pressure for an already overworked shop owner. 😉
You can shop in person at Port of Raleigh Wed-Sat from 11am-7pm& Sun 12pm-5pm, at her online shop, and you can follow her on instagram. Expect to see her adorable daughter Hazel sweeping the front entry, her husband, towering above them both, adjusting window displays and of course Ana Maria and her merchandise picks.
Port of Raleigh is located at 416 S McDowell Street, Raleigh, NC 27601.
Photography by Michelle Smith for Gather Goods Co.
My family’s Thanksgiving traditions are very Rockwellian. We gather at my parent’s house with lots of family, prepare foods together from scratch (though my Mom & Grandmother typically did the lion’s share of the work) and sit at the formal dining table that is pre-set with my Mom’s table setting handiwork that she prepared weeks in advance: foraged branches, seasonal decor, candles, fine china. Of course, there’s always a touch of a mother-daughter meltdown a la Lady Bird in there too. 😉
My Grandmother passed away last year and this will be the first without her there. She was always in charge of the apple pie, a perfectly sweet concoction in an of-course handmade crust. Though she really fostered my love of cooking by making lots of things, this became her of-late specialty. Even as her health was failing, as she was getting shots in her damaged eyes weekly, as her rheumatoid arthritis was flaring, and a myriad of other things, she would putter around in the kitchen making her apple pie and cleaning the dishes.
Obviously, my Grandmother meant a lot to me and had a big impact on my own perspectives. Namely, despite my own challenges and tribulations, I find it more important to stay focused on others and their challenges versus my own, and on continuing to pursue the things that I love despite obstacles, these are a few of the more significant things that I learned from her.
That said, I have been in a deep retreat mode for awhile ever since I broke my wrist, one year ago, yesterday. I have actually pulled back from many things in an effort to regroup and heal from intense burnout. I could see it coming for a few years prior when my head and my heart were in direct stalemate with each other but I chose to keep powering through. When you own a business oftentimes there is a direct correlation between how much work you put forth and how much success you see. It took me breaking my wrist quite badly in two places (the bone actually punctured and went totally through my muscles and nerves like a die-punch – gross) and a resulting medical diagnosis of permanent chronic pain and nerve damage to actually slow me down to a stop. But the trauma of the diagnosis isn’t the story, it’s the leaning in to myself that is. It’s in being true to oneself, it’s in reclaiming and finding yourself and taking the time needed to do that.
And it has taken longer than I expected but I have been feeling a great shift like an iceberg that is slowly melting. And as that iceberg melts I start to rediscover myself again, parts that have been frozen for awhile: my love of cooking, of gardening, of seeking higher truths. All small things, but all very big things to me. I have, as of yet, not taken any pictures with my “real” camera since the wrist break. For half-a-year it was too heavy for me to lift or support, or even hold because of the bend it required in my wrist and then for the other half I was moving into a new home. Not taking pictures with my “real” camera is a big thing for me since I have had a camera in hand for as long as I can remember and live to document everything around me. I suppose now that everyone has a phone camera, the larger becomes more obsolete – but for me it is an extension of myself. I of course never stopped taking photos on my camera phone, thank goodness.
Recently, on a lazy Sunday I made an apple cherry pie recipe that I had found in a recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens. I was out of butter so used lard instead (yes, my husband keeps frozen lard on hand) and I even went so far as to make a lattice pattern on it. As the pie was being prepared, the light in the kitchen was perfect and I recognized it as a photo moment. I improvised with my camera phone (my real camera having run out of charge long ago) and starting shooting like I did before, when I had time, when I wasn’t preoccupied with shop ownership.
This Thanksgiving I will be making my own version of apple pie in honor of my Grandmother, this one that is a little tart and a little sweet and filled with apples and cherries and an amazing crust, similar to hers, but different. Inspired by her but with my stamp on it, and my daughter will be helping me make it. I am so thankful for lazy Sunday’s, for slowing down, for having a phone with a camera on it, for reclaiming old things, and for essentially being the same, despite great shifts.
Thaw cherries, overnight or in a microwave. Preheat oven to 450. Drain cherries saving ¼ cup of the juice. Make your pie crust: on a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough into a 12-inch circle with a rolling pin. Line a 9-inch pie plate with your round pastry circle.
Combine sugar, cornstarch and cayenne in an extra large bowl. Add apples, cherries and reserved juice, tossing gently to coat. Fill pie pastry with the mixture of fruit. Trim the pastry 1 inch beyond the pie plate rim and fold the pastry back over the rim.
Roll out the reserved half of the pastry to about ⅛" thick. Cut into long strips if you want to make a woven lattice pattern. Weave the dough strips so that they make a basket weave type pattern, up and down and over and under each other. If you want to decorate the edges of the pie you can use a fork to crimp the edges. Brush the dough with milk and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Place a baking sheet lined with foil below the pie in the oven to catch any spills.
Bake, uncovered for fifteen minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375. Bake for an hour and 20 minutes up to an hour and 30 minutes or unitl the pie filling is bubbly and pastry is golden but not brown. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.
There are times when the world feels like a hard-edged place and it is challenging to catch your breath and reflect and absorb it all. I feel like right now we are living in such a time. And while I think there are some people who are bolstered by this type of environment, to be an activist, to create change, to shout from the rooftops that the world is not right and justice needs to be served, for me, and I sense many others, I really thrive in a place of less reaction and more contemplation.
I have taken to wearing the same simple outfit everyday: jeans, a v-neck t-shirt, no makeup for the past year or two. It is only recently that I’ve recognized that this is my armour. That the predictability, the comfort, the autonomy of such clothing choices make me feel secure and more able to face the world that we live in currently. So I am a turtle tucking my head deep into my shell to reflect intensely on my core values, to realign them and make sure they are true, to make sure they are not being drowned out by all the other noise surrounding us and my clothes help with that as obscure as that seems.
It is hard to not react and to find the time to meditate deeply when the world seems to be spinning faster and in an ever more off-kilter direction. It is jarring to slow down and pause because spinning can feel like a natural rhythm once you’ve been doing it for awhile. To stop, to step off a spinning carousel, onto solid ground, still feels wobbly for awhile. We get used to the pace we allow ourselves, to the amount of content we absorb, to the expectations we and others set on ourselves to be “productive”. And we live in a culture where “hustle” is often lauded and feels like the mantra of the moment.
I am ever so slowly getting used to a less fast pace where solid and not spinning ground feels comfortable but I find myself trying to fight it still – I am so used to spinning these past few years yet also deeply craving a break, a pause, a reprieve. I prefer the long, quiet in-between spaces, the time to create without expectation, but it really does take awhile to remember that this is where the good stuff lies. That out of stillness come the breakthroughs and the epiphanies that can’t be scheduled and fit into preordained time frames or occurrences. Overall, I respect the seasonality of life, and I have faith in its profoundly recurring nature even if my build, then retreat, then torture, then contemplate method is predictable.
I have been meditating on stillness, on subtlety, on optimism, on grace overall in a world whose own values seem muddied. I recently listened to a podcast with writer Junot Diaz. He was talking about an essay he wrote called “Radical Hope is Our Best Weapon” in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. Hearing him describe the philosophies and perspective that went into his piece, was moving and a point of view that I wish I heard more often. He said a lot of powerful things but this statement really resonated with me: “Society gives us a lot of prompts and a lot of encouragements to be reactive, emotionally reactive. In this, we have received tremendous tutelage. So the ability to do what our societies seem incapable and unwilling to do is important. It’s incumbent upon us to be reflective, to be complex, to be subtle, to be nuanced, to take our time in societies which are none of these things and which encourage none of these things…”
Loeffler Randall is a shoe and accessories company that I have been hearing a lot about lately. I love this tassel and raffia pouch and that they post images of what inspired this collection: straw, pom poms and minimal beachy vibes.
How cool is this pom pom backdrop they created for a company party?