‘Spreading a social venture for the campus’: Vintage Blue proves it’s more than just a company

By Mimi Tomei

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Two hundred forty-seven dollars is a lot of money to spend on one piece of clothing – especially for a college student.

It’s an even more staggering figure when it’s spent on an old windbreaker, even if that windbreaker is Carolina blue and has the UNC-Chapel Hill logo on the flap of the pocket. But that’s exactly what one customer paid after an intense bidding war unfolded on Vintage Blue’s Instagram page.

By giving the customer who lost the bidding war a free piece of gear, they built a relationship.

Vintage Blue is a purveyor of vintage Carolina paraphernalia from area thrift stores and various online sources. The group connects with its audience through Instagram, their main business platform. Other students model for photo shoots around campus and surrounding areas, fostering relationships. The photos serve as advertisements on the company’s Instagram feed.

Vintage Blue’s crew and models arrived with hangers of clothing at 1789 Venture Lab. Among the clothing was a blue windbreaker featuring the UNC-CH mascot Rameses outlined in yellow. But one item didn’t fit on a hanger: a pair of worn, white basketball shoes.

Marketing director Jessi Zhou springs into action, putting the sneakers on model Katy Dettmer, coming up with a way to lace the shoes so the laces can remain loose a la Jay-Z but will still stay on Dettmer’s feet.

As Zhou works, Dettmer and Connor Von Steen, also modeling for the day’s shoot, chat with the team..

Once the shoes are on, content and creative director Rodrigo Bustamante takes over.

Bustamante and Zhou set up on the steep stairs that lead into the entrepreneurship space from Franklin Street a level down. As Zhou styles Dettmer, Bustamante furiously clicks his shutter.

The whole operation has to pause occasionally when someone needs to walk up or down the creaky, paint-chipped stairs.

Nearby, technology and analytics director Kenny Barone sits at a folding table with his MacBook open, perusing Instagram. Barone calls his business partners over, consulting them about which athletes the group’s feed should follow.

Of course, all the basketball players are a given.

The company is run entirely on Instagram, a choice that was made due to the popularity of social media in the venture’s target customer base: college students.

“If it’s in front of your face, you’re going to click on it,” Zhou said.

Convenience is a big draw for Vintage Blue’s customers. The team scopes out and acquires items online and in local thrift stores, saving their customers the effort of having to traverse greater Chapel Hill area to find the perfect piece of gear.

During this time of year when much of UNC-CH is focused on basketball, it comes as no surprise that Vintage Blue is focusing on athletic wear.

“We definitely try to match the energy of the school,” Jemal Abdulhadi, finance and strategy director, said.

The entrepreneurs give the garments they sell creative names. Some of them coincide with upcoming games, such as a basketball warm-up shirt dubbed “Juice ‘cuse” in reference to the then-upcoming game against Syracuse.

Others include a sweatshirt featuring the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Toons dunking a basketball clad in a UNC-CH jersey entitled “Tazzz,” which Von Steen modeled in front of an old PacMan video game machine.

Why do they do it?

They all get real-world experience in fields they hope to pursue after graduation in a profitable business. They’re a part of the vintage fashion scene in Chapel Hill. They express their creativity by telling multimedia stories. They get to work with items so unique they sometimes struggle to let them go when they’re sold.

And they get to learn more about the people they go to school with.

“I like the idea of spreading a social venture for the campus,” Zhou said. “I like how we’re venturing out and doing the stories, because I think it’s very important whatever you do to have a social impact in some way, and selling vintage clothes isn’t a social impact. But by connecting people in the community – I would really love to learn more about my peers that I can’t reach out to.”

The company uses “originals,” which are journalistic profiles written by Bustamante and Barone, to promote their products on their website. So far, Bustamante and Barone have published three “originals,” accompanied by photos of the subject in the clothing.

“We’ve been working on how we can bridge this gap – like how are we going to make stories and vintage clothing work?” Bustamante said. “But we just realized that we can use the model, or the person that we’re doing the story on, to model the clothing. We do the story one day and then the next day drop the item that is associated with their story.”

So far, juniors Psalms White and Scott Diekema and senior Aaron Epps are all profiled on the originals page.

The company came together quickly at the beginning of the spring 2018 semester. The first profile appeared online February 6 – less than three weeks after the group’s first photoshoot.

Where did it come from and where is it going?

Originally conceived as In With the Old in fall 2016, the startup rebranded to Vintage Blue shortly before the semester began under the guidance of Bustamante and Abdulhadi.  Two weeks in, the business began turning a profit.

Photos of the items, shot by Bustamante, are posted on the feed, along with a starting bid and an ending time for bidding on items. From there, customers place bids through the comments section. Each bid must be at least $2 higher than the last. Customers pay through PayPal or Venmo and then arrange a time to meet with a Vintage Blue team member to pick up their item.

“In the first few weeks, we definitely were careful of what and how we spent money on because we weren’t (generating) significant revenue,” Abdulhadi said. “Since then, we’ve primarily been reinvesting profit in the website, gear and future offerings.”

The group has goals for the future, including an official launch party slated for next month. But these new developments come with logistical challenges the company will have to face, like delivery methods.

Vintage Blue hand delivers all their items to help continue connections with its customers beyond the sale. It helps the customer incur less cost, too, since they don’t have to pay for shipping – but that might not always be the case.

“I think we’re going to have to change our model towards shipping and e-commerce,” Abdulhadi said.

“I think as we grow our following nationally, since there are a lot of Carolina fans nationally, it’ll expand to a ton of people who want to buy stuff.”

Edited by Ana Irizarry

Carolina Coffee Shop: the Times They Are A-Changin’

By Colleen Watson

It was just another a quiet weekday afternoon in Carolina Coffee Shop. The inside was dimly lit, with small, fake candle-chandeliers on the ceiling and muted sconces on the walls. The bar in the back left side of the shop boasted an impressive array of alcoholic beverages for a restaurant with the word “coffee” in its title.

Soft classic rock and golden oldies music played in the background, including songs like “My Girl” and “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch.” Booths lined both sides of the cool, brick walls and most of the center of the shop; only three booths were actually occupied. Physically, the booths are straight-backed and made of old, dark wood that creaks when you move on it.

Two women sat at the bar on red-painted, high-top chairs. A small vase rested on top of the bar, holding a dozen roses. The floors were gray and light-blue checkerboard tile, the kind that makes nightly cleanup easier. A few little tables sat crammed-in near the front windows, offering a spectacular view of the bustling Franklin Street.

The Carolina Coffee Shop is a place out of time. I like to imagine somebody time-traveling the shop from the 1920s, picking up an espresso machine from the 1990s, adding a few flat-screens above the bar and calling it a day.

I sat at the bar to order. On the bottom of the menu, there was a small statement, printed in black on the Carolina blue paper. It read: “What started as a student post office became the Carolina Coffee Shop in 1922. We have been feeding Tar Heels for nearly a century.”

At 95 years old, the Shop is not only the oldest restaurant in Chapel Hill, it is the oldest in North Carolina. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the shop features the original booths, bar and architecture from 1922. It’s remarkably long-lasting, compared to the frequent turnover of many similar Franklin Street restaurants. The shop is an iconic symbol of UNC- Chapel Hill and has been for most of its existence. However, the shop is facing a period of uncertainty: in a move meant to attract investors, the Carolina Coffee Shop is being sold.

Management

Daniel Austin’s official title is general manager for the Carolina Coffee Shop. In reality, he does a bit of everything: serving, bartending, meeting with prospective buyers of the shop and working as a public relations contact point. He handles all of that, plus the mountains of paperwork that comes with managing the day-to-day operations of a restaurant.

Austin is young, Chapel Hill native and recent graduate of UNC- Wilmington. He worked at the shop as a teenager and during his college years. He seemed comfortable in his role, despite having just started as the manager in October. Austin even looked the part: sporting khaki shorts, a black “Carolina Coffee Shop” polo and Superman socks.

“When I came on as GM, I said to the owners- we need an identity,” Austin said. “Everyone knows we’re here, no one knows what we do. Right now, my vision has been put on the backburner because of the sale.”

The past few years, Carolina Coffee Shop has been run by a group of absentee owners who choose to remain private. Their asking price for the shop is $145,000.

We sat in a booth at the back of the shop with Austin facing the front, so he could keep an eye on his tables. He’d get up periodically to hand customers their checks or make an espresso for students lingering behind to study. From both his words and actions, it was clear Austin cared about the shop.

“But like anything that you care about, it takes time and effort, and it’s not easy dealing with the landlords,” Austin said with a frustrated look.

And who are the landlords?

“None other than the good old University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” Austin said. “Dealing with the university is a nightmare, just like any bureaucracy. Since I’ve been here, I’ve had two dozen meetings with the university to get the shop updated. The sewer is 100 years old, brick and mortar. For a prospective buyer, the amount of money they need to invest is ridiculous.”

A lot of customers panicked when they heard about the sale, but Austin isn’t worried about the shop itself.

“This physical establishment is not going to ever move unless there’s a hurricane,” Austin said. “As much importance as this establishment has to the town, it has equal to the university. They have a vested interest in keeping this the Carolina Coffee Shop. They’re not going to let it change.”

Austin is in charge of meeting prospective buyers as a proxy for the absentee owners who wish to remain anonymous in the sale. He explained his process of selling potential buyers on the shop.

“You’re not buying the business, you’re buying people’s perspective on it,” Austin said. “The most consistent comment I’ve gotten is ‘Don’t change, don’t close, don’t change.’ Every prospective buyer has a different vision for this place. Who buys it, who has the right vision, who has the resources to turn that vision into a reality.”

Austin pointed out a few regular customers, working at booths or chatting by the front windows. Of the customers I spoke to, many, if not all, had no idea their beloved shop might soon be in the care of a new owner.

Austin said, “That’s a very special person you’re looking for, to negotiate the price point between the university, the ownership group, the town of Chapel Hill and the people who graduated in 1950 and never left. They all have a vested interest in this place staying the way it is.”

A Not-So-Quiet Evening

There aren’t many people who know the shop better than longtime employee Jeremy Ferry. Ferry is in his thirties. He’s a friendly guy with the slightest bit of a gap in-between his teeth and an easy smile. A quintessential bartender hand-towel hung from his right hip. He’s one of those guys who never stops pacing or rocking back and forth.

I met Ferry on my second visit to the shop, a Wednesday evening, about an hour before their planned closing time. He’d managed the shop for eight years.

“It’s a unique place and I spent a lot of hours here,” Ferry said with a laugh as he surveyed the interior of the restaurant.

It was the same as it had been in the afternoon: muted lighting, a cool atmosphere and golden oldies hits. I sat at the bar and ordered the blackened chicken salad, one of Ferry’s suggestions.

Ferry and Austin stood by the bar and hammered out the plan for Thursday night’s Senior Bar Golf, an event where graduating seniors visit Chapel Hill bars and try drink specials at each establishment.

My salad arrived, delivered by Charlotte Maiden, the only waitress on duty that evening. It smelled fantastic, with blackened-chicken, tomatoes, red peppers, nuts, raisins and goat cheese, all covered in a spicy vinaigrette. I’d barely taken two bites, when an entire sorority came in.

Literally.

I caught a look of absolute terror on Maiden’s face as close to 75 girls packed into the space near the bar. In preparation for Senior Bar Golf, several sororities planned their own bar golf for that evening.

Ferry and Austin jumped into motion, checking IDs as they moved down the bar in rapid succession, filling cups with ice for Long Island iced-teas and margaritas. Drunken girls surrounded me, shouting to each other across the room. There was a lot of yelling, squealing, hugging and pounding fistfuls of Skinny Pop they’d brought along with them in preparation for a night of heavy drinking.

I spoke with Rebecca Shoenthal, one of the sorority members and a senior who is a frequent visitor to the shop.

“I used to come here with my dad,” Shoenthal said. “He loves this place. This is literally where he used to go when he was in college. I remember when I was touring here, it was this or Starbucks. But this is more Chapel Hill.”

The sorority was in and out in about half an hour. It was one of the loudest, most chaotic, definitively feminine moments of my life. A few stragglers sat by the front windows, having run out of steam close to the doors. They huddled together and drunk-talked it out, inching their way toward sober, laughter rising and falling in waves.

Maiden stopped by my spot at the bar as the last rush cleared.

“It’s never like this,” she said. “It’s normally super quiet. Usually weeknights I’m out of here at like 8:30.”

Maiden and Ferry went about closing the restaurant. They wiped down counters and swept under the booths.

Ferry grinned at me, still a little shell-shocked from the visit.

“They didn’t call ahead, which would have been nice,” he said. “But I don’t mind. This has been happening to me for 10 years.”

A State of Flux

For a place that hasn’t really changed since the 1950s, everyone seems to have a different concept of the Carolina Coffee Shop. A lot of patrons mention their brunches. It’s a frequent place for students to bring their visiting parents on weekend mornings. Others mention the Thursday trivia nights, which tend to get a little rowdy. Teams compete, armed with an assortment of random facts and knowledge that only college students seem to possess. Customers mention some pretty great mixers they’ve had with other fraternities and clubs here, while some claim it’s the best place for a casual lunch date.

I spent Thursday evening in the back corner of the Carolina Coffee Shop, observing the chaos that was Senior Bar Golf. At times, close to 100 students were packed into the shop, waiting to order the drink specials written on a whiteboard at the front. The eagle special was the $6 Tar Heel Tail Kicker, a lovely, electric-blue color drink that I imagine would be horrible to throw-up later. The birdie was the $5 Green Monster and $4 drafts were served as the par drink.

Austin had perked up the atmosphere for the party night. They played a mix of 70s hits, the kinds of songs everyone knows the lyrics to.

All in all, it was a great night for seniors looking to go out in style, and bars who were set to make a lot of money off the alcohol sales. The seniors wore the requisite Bar Golf attire: khakis, polo shirts and boat shoes. Some tied cardigans around their shoulders, while others wore visors and one white, golfing-glove like Michael Jackson if he’d gone through a country club phase.

I spoke with countless students, some of whom were ardent fans of the shop, and others who confessed this was their first time entering the restaurant. But the most interesting conversation I had was with a man who wasn’t even a current student.

Nick Williams stood at the back of the bar and nursed a pint, slightly away from the crowd of seniors hell bent on having a great time. He is in his thirties and used to work at the shop when he was a teenager.

“This was a neighborhood family thing,” Williams said. “All our friends worked here together. It used to be a totally different scene. Coffee shop during the day, casual bar during the night. It was classy, very classy.”

He shook his head and gestured at the students.

Williams said, “As a Chapel Hill local, this place means a lot to me. I used to come in here, get a coffee and the free rolls. It’s transitioned into a college bar over the years. Seriously brings a tear to my eye, the idea that it can change even more.”

Williams isn’t alone in thinking that. The Carolina Coffee Shop is grandfathered into the landscape of Chapel Hill. It just remains to be seen if this sale will keep the shop’s traditional roots, or move forward into unknown territory.

Edited by Travis Butler

Durham’s Loaf bakery makes bread, builds community

By Leah Asmelash

At 4 a.m., the streets of downtown Durham, N.C. are eerie. The miscellaneous people who roam the streets during the day — construction workers, the homeless and businesspeople — are gone, leaving only darkness and silence.

The windows of Loaf, a bread bakery on the corner of Parrish Street, are the only source of light this early in the morning. Peering through the one of the two large, square windows, I see a short young woman walking around and setting up equipment. A teal headband holds her short brown hair in place. She wears a clean, white apron over her knit sweater and red and black plaid skirt. This is Maggie Payne, one of the morning bakers at Loaf. I am exhausted, but she holds a large teacup in her hands and appears well-rested, ready to bake.

As she explains her job to me, a man wheels a black bike into the bakery. Maggie greets him and tells me this is Brian Avery, the other morning baker. He flashes me a smile but says nothing, and I will soon realize this quietness is the norm for him. He’s tall and thin with a shock of brown hair. I later learn he rides his bike to Loaf every morning, a custom that takes him about 15 minutes.

Ron Graff opened Loaf in 2011 after four years of selling hearth breads at the Durham Farmers’ Market. Now, the bakery has been featured in Bon Appétit and The New York Times and is among the most popular bakeries in the Triangle.

A Baker’s Routine

It’s a small space, one reminiscent of a hole-in-the-wall bookstore rather than a full-fledged bakery. During the day, the sun streams through the two windows behind the front counter, illuminating the entire space with natural light and highlighting the two pastry cases on display — one filled with croissants, pain au chocolats and danishes, the other filled with tiny cakes and cream puffs. Behind the cases and against the window is the metal bread rack, displaying the breads of the day for purchase, like Market Loaf, Pain de Campagne and Polenta bread. In the back, separated from the front part of the store by a short hallway, is the kitchen where everything is baked.

Loaf’s kitchen is about the size of a small classroom, but the industrial baking equipment makes the space feel even more cramped. There’s a giant wood-fired oven in the back corner, and pushed next to it are four conventional ovens, stacked one on top of the other like a bookshelf. A long table completely covered with a wooden cutting board stretches across the middle of the room. On the right, there are sinks and a small work area next to an industrial stand mixer, and both a walk-in fridge and normal fridge to the left.

Maggie and Brian immediately get to work, Brian slams whole wheat and white croissant dough onto the floured cutting board table, while Maggie quietly melts butter over a plug-in stove top. They don’t speak this early, and the only noise, aside from Brian beating the dough, is the buzz from the large cooler in the front of the bakery.

Brian rolls out each fat rectangle of dough and after beating it, flattens it with a rolling pin. The muscles in his forearms clench with each roll, and he meticulously measures the now thin rectangle to ensure it’s the right size. There’s no guesswork involved here, only precision.

He cuts the dough into squares and lays strips of ham across them. He then tubes a soft cheese mixture across the slices of ham, working quickly and efficiently. On the last one, he makes a tiny mistake and the cheese doesn’t fall exactly where he wanted it to. He quickly smacks his lips and lets out a short sigh before he moves on to finish the pastries.

At this point, Brian has only been in the shop for half an hour, but he already has 30 ham and cheese croissants ready for proofing.

He makes a pot of coffee and offers me some. I notice he drinks it black and slow, only a few sips every 45 minutes. It seems at first that Brian has a cold personality, but I soon realize he just doesn’t talk much. When I start asking questions, he opens up easily.

“I was hoping to have strawberries,” he tells me, now hard at work on apricot danishes. “But we can do that tomorrow.”

He smiles as he speaks, and it’s shy, but warm and genuine. When he works, he is completely focused on whatever he does, whether it’s making coffee or prepping breakfast pastries for the day.

Passion Over Practicality

Meanwhile, Maggie is almost the complete opposite of Brian. For the most part, Brian stays in one place while prepping the pastries, but Maggie is constantly moving — fluttering between the stand mixer and the plug-in stove, juggling multiple tasks at once. She adds butter and milk to the stand mixer for hot cross buns, while melting chocolate on the burner for chocolate éclairs. As she works, she narrates everything to me.

Maggie started baking in high school, ultimately deciding to forego college to pursue a baking career. While in high school, she interned for a woman who made wedding cakes before working at a bakery called Lady Cakes, which is now closed. She considered attending culinary school and spent a year after high school researching the path, but she decided it was too expensive, especially in Durham where so many bakers were willing to take her under their wings.

Her parents were supportive of her pursuing baking rather than school, since it was a craft she loved. Maggie hopes to attend college to study science, but for now she enjoys working at Loaf and plans to remain there for the foreseeable future.

“I really enjoy it,” Maggie says. “Even if I don’t feel like going to work, I still enjoy it.”

It’s clear that she does, her quiet contentment on display every time she starts a pastry. She measures out vanilla extract in a bottle cap and pipes whipped chocolate hazelnut cream to make chocolate hazelnut cream puffs, a last-minute decision that she makes look effortless. The finished cream puffs look like tiny castles, and they glow underneath the pasty case lights, almost too pretty to eat.

In Sync

“I was hoping to make strawberry cream puffs,” she tells me, reflecting what Brian said earlier about the danishes. The two are in sync.

Brian and Maggie don’t talk much and when they do, it’s about work: what ingredients they have or don’t have or what they need to make. Brian gives some direction, but they both have the freedom to essentially do or make whatever they want. As they work, they mostly listen to podcasts and indie music, which Brian plays by connecting his phone to a speaker.

Despite their general silence, they’re engaged in a continuous dance as they go about their shift. Maggie shimmies by Brian as she shuffles to the other side of the kitchen, and he slides by her to get to the back. They work around each other, but somehow never seem to intrude or get in the other’s way.

They’re in harmony, as if they don’t need to communicate. Maggie pulls out the danishes Brian made earlier, spooning cream into the center and topping them with the apricot slices he prepped beforehand. She sprays the proofed ham and cheese croissants from hours earlier with water and tops them with extra cheese. At no point does Brian tell her to do these things, Maggie just knows.

That kind of knowing comes from years of working together. Maggie has been at Loaf for two years now and Brian for six, since the bakery opened its downtown location.

Restaurant Fatigue

Brian started as a line cook at Piedmont, a modern American restaurant in downtown Durham. But he was bored just being a line cook, so eventually he moved up and became the restaurant’s pastry chef, having previously been a baker at Wellspring, a Durham grocery store that is now a Whole Foods.

He met Ron when he was still only selling bread at the Durham Farmers’ Market. Brian discovered he was going to open up a bakery and decided to join.

“I was getting pretty tired of the restaurant business,” Brian said. Bakeries seemed calmer, which appealed to him.

Brian cleans out the wood-fired oven, where Loaf bakes almost all of the bread they sell, sweeping out the ash. Loaves of dough in small straw baskets are lined up on giant, stacked metal cooling racks. He scoops six loaves onto a peel, guiding them into shape using his palms. His touch is gentle but quick. He cuts lines into the tops of loaves using a metal lame, which he holds between his lips while he slides the loaves into the 500-degree wood-fired oven. He repeats this process for about five different types of bread, baking what seems to be hundreds of loaves in total, but the number is probably closer to 50. I don’t see him take a break.

Loaf’s Leader

Around noon, Ron makes his first appearance in Loaf. He’s tall, and his gray hair is pulled back into a braid that falls between his shoulder blades. His double piercings in his left ear sparkle under the light – one silver hoop and one teal stud.

The first thing he does is wash dishes. Ownership doesn’t give him a free pass.

We talk upstairs in a wide room overlooking Parrish Street. It’s a space Ron is still deciding what to do with, but for now serves as a temporary office and storage area.

Ron’s demeanor is lighthearted, and he jokes around with the staff and customers who come in. But when we start talking about Loaf, his tone grows more serious.

For him, Loaf was always about bread. He recognizes that croissants and pain au chocolats may pay the bills, and he’s glad that Loaf is known for those items too, but that isn’t what Loaf was meant to be.

“Bread is why most of us are here,” he says.

Bread was his passion, what he turned to when his day job, a research scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, became stressful. He didn’t set out to open a bakery, but as demand for his bread grew, he decided to find a space to bake full time.

A Community Bakery

Loaf is now what Ron calls a community bakery. He works nourish and feed the Triangle with his bread. Loaf donates any leftovers they have to refugee and homeless organizations, and they sell at two farmers’ markets, both Durham’s and Chapel Hill’s, all of which help increase their presence in the community.

Although Loaf didn’t begin with this intention, the bakery has become a way for Ron to give back to his community.

He stares out the window, looking down on Parrish Street. It’s the middle of the day now, so the construction workers have returned and people are roaming the streets.

“I want to be a good citizen,” he says.

Back in the kitchen, the originally quiet space is now filled with chatter and laughter. Music underlines all the action as Maggie tells jokes that make the other bakers laugh. Everyone is still working, but it’s clear they’re all friends, part of the same community.

The only one who doesn’t talk is Brian, who’s completely focused on his bread, one hand on his hip and the other resting on the door of the wood-fired oven. Although he has separated himself from the group, he still waves at passing customers he recognizes. He’s part of Loaf,  part of this community bakery that continues to flourish, both in and outside the kitchen.

Edited by Sarah Muzzillo

 

The business of sprouting joy and peace from tiny seeds in Durham

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Almost 700 plants surround visitors from all angles at The ZEN Succulent. Photo by Molly Weybright.

By Molly Weybright

Shades of green — a gradient so expansive that you didn’t know so many variants of the color existed.  Colors that look like the way a granny smith apple tastes, like the feeling of damp grass between your toes, like petrichor — the earthy smell after heavy rain.  Over 100 different species of plants hang from the ceiling, rest on shelves against the walls and nestle into nooks around the floor.  Succulents and ferns surround you in the 400 square foot space that holds almost 700 plants.  They’re impossible to avoid.

Not that you would want to.

Stepping into The ZEN Succulent, a small store in Durham, N.C., is like entering another world.  It feels like Neverland — wild and untamed but also carefully crafted — every plant has a place where it belongs.  It is the type of place Peter Pan would long to call home.  The greens and browns and organized chaos exude wanderlust and magic; any minute a fairy might flit out from behind the large leaf of a philodendron.  If Tinker Bell were to ever find herself in Durham, this is undoubtedly where she would end up.

Megan George has crafted her small store to be more than just a plant shop.  She has created, as if by magic, an atmosphere of natural, easygoing relaxation that is impossibly inviting.  She wants to create a community of trust and creativity and believes that The ZEN Succulent and her plants are the best way to do it.

“Plants bring me joy, inspiration and happiness,” she said, and through The ZEN Succulent, she is able to share that with the community.

 

A roundabout past

Megan George grew up in Raleigh surrounded by plants.  Both of her parents were ardent plant-lovers and they often took her to greenhouses and nurseries.  Her love of plants is founded in the deep history that she has with learning about plants and how to care for them.

“The seeds that were planted way back when,” she said, “how I’m able to use them now, it’s crazy.”

She moved back to Raleigh in 2011 after graduating from business school at UNC-Greensboro.  Yearning for small-business jobs, she realized quickly that there were very few available.  She found herself working for the North Carolina Education Lottery.

She did not enjoy the job — her creativity was being stifled.  So, in an effort to combat her frustration, she started an Etsy page selling succulents and terrariums.

“Through my frustration in not being able to implement all of the things I learned at school,” she said, “that’s how [The ZEN Succulent] came about.”

And she never looked back.

Megan’s passion continued to grow as she developed ways to increase people’s knowledge about houseplants, succulents and terrariums.  She has since worked with HGTV, published a book titled “Modern Terrarium Studio” and opened The ZEN Succulent.

When Bakara Wintner, the owner of Everyday Magic, which now adjoins The ZEN Succulent, offered her the 400-square-foot space, Megan said she felt like it was fate rather than chance.

“At that point, I’d never said the words ‘I want to have a shop’ out loud,” she said.  “Even though I really wanted it, I’d just never had the opportunity.  But [Bakara] gave me that opportunity and I thought, why not?”

As soon as she knew she had a space to expand her passion, she jumped headfirst into building the business she always dreamed of having.

“In 20 years I can say ‘I did it,’” Megan said, “instead of saying ‘I wish I had done it.’”

Sarah Riazati, who works at Everyday Magic, was there when Megan signed the lease.  In less than a month, she said, Megan transformed the small, box-filled space into a “luscious, green, amazing-smelling little store.”  Sarah said she couldn’t believe how fast Megan created the green wonderland.

“That was really when I saw her design sense coming out,” she said.  “There are so many pieces that go into it.  It showed she had a really strong vision.”

Megan’s design sense and her business intuition work perfectly together to create a cohesive and thriving store where customers feel at home upon their first visit.

Megan said she wants shopping at The ZEN Succulent to be a very personal experience where customers get one-on-one attention to help their plant journey be as successful as possible.

“People can go anywhere to get plants,” Megan said, “so why do they come to me?”

One reason is the holistic approach she takes when dealing with the store.  She believes that if she has all of the things people need to create their terrariums or potted plants, then they will be more successful. So, if a customer buys a plant and a pot from The ZEN Succulent, Megan will put them together for free.

Megan’s sole employee, Julie Ragsdale, described her as knowledgeable and business-savvy as well as hilarious, kind and generous.

“I couldn’t imagine finding a more enjoyable person to work with,” Julie said.

When it comes down to it, those qualities are what make Megan and The ZEN Succulent so successful.  She is more than just a business owner or a plant lover — she is a people lover who wants to impart happiness and serenity upon everyone she meets.

 

Thriving in the present

Since opening the store Megan hasn’t stopped trying to involve members of the community with her business.  Her newest idea is to hold workshops at The ZEN Succulent.

She has collaborated with local artists to host watercolor painting, spoon carving, floral arranging and calligraphy workshops.  Megan herself hosts succulent terrarium building workshops where up to 10 people can make their own terrariums, each unique to the individual creating it.

“At all of the workshops everybody leaves with their own creation and something extra to recreate the exercise again,” she said.  “They are leaving with something to continue their journey.”

From her terrarium workshops participants will leave with their newly made succulents as well as instructions on how to recreate the experience in their own homes.

Her first workshop, hosted on Tuesday, April 18, sold out in five days with little promotion. Megan said that she was thrilled at how quickly the workshop sold out — she wants to help people discover the joy of owning and crafting indoor plants.

“We’re not just putting plants in glassware,” she said, “we’re making a landscape.”

As the 10 participants began to arrive on April 18, Megan put the finishing touches on the workshop spaces.  Each person would have a glass bowl; soil, sand and rocks; six succulents; and the tools necessary to put it all together.

She began the workshop by talking about how the succulents are low maintenance plants, which is what makes them ideal for small spaces with little natural light.

“I went into a low-maintenance business for a reason,” she joked.

But, unbeknownst to the 10 women participating, Megan had just spent the previous three hours getting ready and setting up for the workshop — on her day off.  The ZEN Succulent is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but that doesn’t stop her from tending to the behind-the-scenes work that makes the store so magical.

For almost three hours she flitted around the store preparing the setups for the participants, vacuuming and running out to a nearby shop to purchase complimentary wine for the women.

But Megan doesn’t mind.  In fact, she loves it.

“When you enjoy what you’re doing you really want to excel,” she said.

Many of the participants were first-time plant owners looking to find some low maintenance yet beautiful plants to liven up their living and work spaces.

Diane Ditzel from Durham lives in a small apartment and wants to garden but has no land.  She heard about Megan’s workshop and felt like it was the perfect solution to her lack of space.  As the workshop progressed Diane realized that creating the terrarium was almost its own form of gardening.  She was taking living things and putting them together to create her own miniature garden.

“It’s like art,” she said.

Other participants felt that the idea of creating a succulent terrarium from scratch was daunting, but they found that once they got started under Megan’s instructions, everything fell into place.

Kim O’Brien, a participant from Wake Forest, prefaced the workshop by admitting that she had no idea what she was doing, but by the end felt that the experience was incredibly therapeutic.

“She’s good,” Kim said of Megan’s ease with plants and people and putting the two together.

And she is.

Megan said she purposefully doesn’t make a terrarium during the workshop so that the participants can make the terrariums in their own way.

There is no wrong way to create these landscapes, she said, and the freer people are to work on their own, the more they will appreciate the creativity and uniqueness of the results.

She also lets the participants pick six out of the hundreds of succulents she has available so they can pick the plants that they are most drawn to.  Megan emphasizes that plants are not just decorations, but are living things that individuals can connect with.  She said the terrarium building process is a “very organic experience.”

Many of the participants were thrilled and astounded by the wide variety of plants they could choose from, including Cassidy Johnson from Chapel Hill.

“I’ve never seen some of these before,” she said.  “It looks like something out of Dr. Seuss.”

Some of the plants are fuzzy and some are smooth.  Some are long, skinny and loping while others are squat and round.  There are pink plants and teal plants and red plants and blue plants.  Looking at the succulents side by side does seem like a small world out of the mind of Seuss himself.

Cassidy first noticed The ZEN Succulent as she was walking around downtown Durham, and when one of her coworkers at the Carolina Women’s Center heard about Megan’s workshop, they decided to check it out.

She said that she was thrilled about how relaxing the workshop was and how much she got out of it.

“We all have pretty serious jobs,” Cassidy said, “so it felt pretty nice to come do something like this.”

That’s exactly what Megan strives for — people discovering the serenity of working with plants and taking that discovery with them when they leave.

 

A wide-open future

When it comes to running a small business, Megan said she feels that passion is one of the most important aspects to finding success.  Her love of plants and her business skills create a perfect niche where she finds joy and success.  She described owning and running The ZEN Succulent as an “honor, privilege and responsibility.”

Her biggest piece of advice?

“Do something that you love and be authentic when you do it.”

Striving for that authenticity is something that she says she does every day.  She knows that she needs that authenticity as she continues to build and expand upon her ideas.

“I’m very aware of the mortality of my business,” she said, “because this is something that I need to take to another level, otherwise it’s going to be very static.”

While she is always looking forward to see what she can do to expand, she can’t help but reflect back on how far she has come.

As the anniversary of opening the shop approaches in May, Megan said that it’s hard to believe how much has come out of her passion for plants and her knack for business.

“It could have happened to anyone,” she said, “but I’m glad that it happened to me.”

She is not sure what her next step is, but as far as she can see into the future, Megan sees herself with The ZEN Succulent.

“I enjoy what I’m doing,” she said.  “This could be a forever thing.”

Edited by Bridget Dye.

Instagram restaurant brings spice to late-night food

By Lauren Tarpley

Ian Burris has always loved being in the kitchen. When he was a child, he would cook with his mom and ask to help with dinner.  As a teenager, he went to parties and when people would get hungry, Burris would start cooking. Now, at 20 years old, Burris has turned his passion of cooking into his own business.

“I’ve put my whole life into this, so it’s kind of all or nothing,” Burris said.

Burris created the Dankery in Wilmington in 2015 after waiting for the perfect time to pursue his passion, but brought the business to Durham in the summer of 2016. He and his friends were tired of waiting in long lines at Cook Out or Waffle House late at night. Plus, there just weren’t many restaurants that offered quality food after dark.

Burris saw this as an opportunity and began the Dankery, offering “dank food at a great price” from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. From his kitchen at home, Burris prepares wings, chicken tenders, shrimp, and fries with over 20 flavor options ranging from Cheerwine Barbeque to Thai Chili and delivers his homemade trays to hungry customers throughout Durham.

“These foods were the easiest to start out with,” Burris said. “I knew how to do it and I knew a lot of people would like it.”

Ian Burris launched an Instagram restaurant, serving fries, wings and shrimp burgers from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Ian Burris launched an Instagram restaurant in 2015, serving fries, wings and shrimp burgers from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Spreading the word

Business has been booming for the Dankery even though the restaurant hasn’t opened a physical location. Burris has instead managed to gain a loyal following through social media.

Burris essentially built his business using Instagram and Snapchat. While many businesses struggle with promoting their brand on social media, Burris has been able to use this marketing tool to his advantage. Since customers can’t go into the restaurant to look at the food, Burris posts photos and videos of the delicious food he prepares — bringing in new fans, new customers and new orders.

“It’s all ‘bout earned media and people spreading the word,” Burris said. “They get a tray, they like it, and they tell someone about it.”

Joshua Bumgardner, owner of Chef J’s Trays in Houston, Texas, helped Burris in the beginning stages of developing the Dankery.

“It was his own thing and he had his own hustle, but I helped with the development,” Bumgardner said. “I saw all the work and all the pay off.”

Bumgardner opened Chef J’s Trays in March and has adopted a similar business strategy to Burris, with plans to use earned media and word-of-mouth to gain a following. Although Bumgardner is still developing the social media pages for his business, he has gained a following since opening and now serves around 20 people nightly.

Albert Segars, a distinguished professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said social media is vital to small businesses because of its ability to reach a large number of people at little to no cost. However, in order for social media to be effective without being intrusive, it must be managed properly and businesses must find a balance with their social media use.

While Burris has been successful in working from his kitchen, his goal is to someday have multiple food trucks. For now, Burris is  in the process of getting the proper permits to open his food truck and will be looking to hire a staff to help run the Dankery. He hopes to have the mobile location open to the public by the end of the year.

From startup to success

Burris’ journey has not been without obstacles. He handles everything on his own, from marketing to cooking and delivery, meaning he often has to turn business away when demand is too high. Burris is solely responsible for financially backing his business, from raising the initial capital to savings funds for expansion.

“There are many challenges to starting a business,” Segars said. “The primary one is money. This means sacrifice, in most cases, entrepreneurs have to invest their own money which can be a risky proposition.”

Burris believes his dedication combined with his delicious food will help make the Dankery successful.

“I have a really good work ethic and when I want to do something, I make sure I get it done,” Burris said. “I’m kind of a perfectionist. When I’m making trays, I want everything to be perfect.”

As a young and talented entrepreneur, Burris has the qualities that can set apart a successful business from a failing one.

“Successful entrepreneurs tend to be very social, positive, and ambitious,” Segars said. “Entrepreneurs are wired differently and their passion is the business they start. Make sure that your service and product are always the best. Never accept less than perfect delivery on customers’ expectations.”

Burris’ passion and drive for his business have helped his business stand out. He has been dedicated to the Dankery and its customers, putting in years of work to build the brand. Segars said time is another challenge young businesses face.

“It requires a lot of time to get a business started,” Segars said. “You must create a product or service, market its value, and devote many hours to managing the business. You have to be willing to wait for success.”

Burris has done just that and as a result, the Dankery continues to profit and grow. But the Dankery is still in the early phases of becoming a full-fledged and well-established business. The Cousins Maine Lobster food truck is a perfect example of a food truck success story. In May of 2015, Deb Keller launched the Cousins Maine food truck in Raleigh, branching from the Cousins Maine brand, which was created in 2012. The truck is wildly popular and serves Maine lobster rolls.

“I went into this with zero restaurant knowledge other than I love eating food at restaurants,” Keller said. “Now, I’m providing the best lobster you can find and we have a beautiful following. That makes it all worth while.”

Like Burris, Cousins Maine Lobster was able to build a loyal following using quality food and superior customer service. By entering the food truck market with a unique product, the Cousins Maine Lobster truck was able to distinguish itself from competitors, which is what Burris intends to do once he is able to expand.

While the food truck market in Raleigh is relatively saturated, that is not the case in Durham. According to Jaseth Fike, a student at Durham Technical Community College, there aren’t many food trucks in the area that cater to students.

“I don’t see a lot of food trucks around campus,” Fike said. “I think if there were more options, more students would go.”

The Dankery has a unique product and high demand. Keller said she loves the concept and believes the brand could separate itself from the masses of taco and burger trucks.

“I personally believe it would be welcomed,” said Keller. “You have to have your signature.”

Edited by Hannah Smoot

Women make their mark: tattooing industry no longer a man’s game

By Leah Asmelash

Tattoos have increased in popularity over the last few years, as stigmas against body art have decreased in both social environments and the workplace. Although the artistic tradition has a long history in many indigenous cultures, the art form is most known in western culture as a symbol of the counter-movement, particularly in the ‘90s. They were sported by a crowd most parents didn’t necessarily want their kids to be around: punk skaters, gang members and convicts, usually all men.

Tattooing, in general, was a boy’s club. A woman with a tattoo was rare; a woman tattooing was unheard of. Now, people with tattoos come from all walks of life and from all genders, as do tattoo artists. So, what has changed in the last few decades, and why are people increasingly drawn to tattoos?

Boy’s Club

Heather Harlow, owner of Divine Moment Tattoo in Burlington, N.C., has been tattooing for 11 years. When she started, she said the industry lived up to its status as a boy’s club and was sexist towards women, but it has changed over the course of her career.

“I was maybe the first or second lady that actually did conventions on the East Coast,” Harlow said, while recalling her earlier days. “So a lot of people were just really rude to me, but I stayed strong and I knew they were going to make fun of me. I just knew that I didn’t care if I was a female or not. I loved art and I loved tattooing and I loved people.”

Now Harlow only hires women artists, in part because she felt mortified by how women tattoo artists were treated in the past. They were called curtain-hangers, a term signifying someone who should only go into the shop to hang curtains to make the space look pretty, rather than tattooing. Still, Harlow said it has gotten easier for women to enter the tattoo industry, and they have helped change and evolve the industry as a result.

“In the long run it probably has more to do with there’s not much competition,” she said. “Everyone has found a niche. There’s so many different types of tattooing now that anybody can do anything now. A lot of females are good for watercolors and stuff like that, more color. Guys hate doing that.”

Evolving Industry

Meghan Thayer owns Ascension Tattoo in Chapel Hill, N.C. Her shop, which is located on West Franklin Street between a smoke shop and a CD/record store, is more spacious than it seems upon first inspection. The front door opens into a tall staircase — the entire shop is on the second floor. The space is organized, with one room for piercing and one room for tattooing. The rooms are blocked off from the front desk area with a black curtain. The sun peering through the window casts shadows over the space, but Thayer doesn’t seem to mind. She leaves the lights off.

Thayer has only been tattooing for six years, but she’s always loved the art form, getting her first tattoo as soon as she turned 18. Although she never set out to be a tattoo artist, she has always been a creative person.

She said the tattoo industry is still dominated by men, but, like Harlow, she believes it’s evolving as more women begin tattooing.

“I think there’s been enough women who have been in the industry for a while now that there’s sort of this big enough group of women tattoo artists who new women tattooers can look up to,” Thayer said. “They’re becoming leaders in the industry, and it is starting to kind of balance out.”

Thayer also said women are going back to the older roots of tattooing, beyond the traditional style of the 20th century that has more masculine characteristics.

“People are getting back to more of like the healing aspect of things and the spiritual aspect of it,” Thayer said. “And while I see both male and female artists doing that, there’s definitely a feminine quality in that.”

A Growing Art Form

Sarah Peacock, owner of Artfuel Tattoo Shop and Art Gallery in Wilmington, N.C., has been tattooing for 22 years. Having working in the industry for so long, she’s  part of an older generation of tattoo artists, and she disagrees with both Harlow and Thayer on the role of women in the tattoo industry.

“I don’t think you can look at a particular style and say women definitely prefer to do that,” Peacock said, referencing differences in style between men and women tattoo artists.

Instead, Peacock said the new styles rising in popularity now are due to the influx of artists taking an interest in tattooing, not more women tattooing.

“Tattooing has gone into the hands of these people that have pushed the envelope, and they’ve brought so many different styles in, from graphic novels to fine art to computer art,” Peacock said.

All of the women, however, agree that the industry has changed drastically in the past few years, with more and more people getting tattoos. They no longer symbolize a rebel status like they used to. Instead, they have become a part of mainstream popular culture.

“Different types of people have been a little bit more okay with getting tattooed lately, in the past four to five years,” Harlow said. “I think what changed it was the media. If it’s on TV, it’s okay.”

Shifting Trends

Peacock first began to notice the change when her clientele shifted. She began to get to know people in the medical field or in law enforcement who were interested in tattooing, the types of people who did not express an interest before.

“What I suddenly realized is that I was being viewed as a successful business owner, aside from being a tattooer,” Peacock said. “So suddenly, I’m validated. I’m okay for someone to talk to me and take me into their group that aren’t necessarily into tattooing. And that was kind of weird.”

Peacock called the shift a turning point in her career. After only associating with fellow tattoo artists, she wasn’t used to attention from individuals outside of the industry.

Thayer agreed that tattoo culture has become more popular recently due to the influence of media, but she said the political climate may have something to do with the recent increase as well.

“Throughout history, there’s been surges of an increase of tattooing, and they tend to follow really politically turbulent times,” Thayer said. “I think we’re definitely in another one of this cycles, like we were in the ‘20s and ‘30s, and again in the ‘60s and ‘70s. We’re here again. It’s a way for people to take control of themselves. So I think that’s what’s really going on at the core of it.”

Express Yourself

Harlow said that people are drawn towards tattoos as a way to express themselves, not necessarily an expression of rebellion anymore.

“We have so many different types of people, and there’s so many humans on this planet that we’re trying to find a way to express ourselves and stand out,” Harlow said. “I think it’s a change of consciousness. People want to be able to be different and express themselves.”

Breast cancer patients have also become a large clientele for tattoo artists. Nipple tattoos help women feel better after mastectomies, when the breast and the nipple are removed, Harlow said.

“I can tattoo them and make them look 3-D, and they feel better with that,” she said. “As long as society is okay with it, it’s okay for people to get it.”

Peacock, who has also tattooed women after mastectomies, said tattooing breast cancer patients changed how people viewed her. She was no longer just a tattoo artist, but someone who was helping women by doing something surgeons couldn’t do.

For women especially, Thayer said tattoos help with self-esteem, even outside of mastectomies.

“(Women) have been told we’re not enough of something,” she said. “You’re too tall, you’re too short, you’re too thin, you’re too fat, you’re too whatever. You’re something.

“I see as people get tattoos, they start to accept themselves for who they are,” Thayer said. “And to stand up in front of the mirror and just love yourself, love the way you look, is such a powerful thing.”

Looking Forward

Women have gone through a long journey in the tattoo industry. Some are like Peacock, they’ve been in the industry forever with few problems, but others are Harlow and have been discriminated against based on their gender. In the end, there are more women now than ever before, women like Thayer who began tattooing just in the last few years, making their mark on the tattooing world.

The industry — whether it is because of the media, the political climate, the desire for self-expression or breast cancer — continues to grow in popularity among both men and women. And despite whether they are giving a tattoo or receiving it, women are, and have always been, a huge part of the tattoo industry.

Edited by Sarah Muzzillo

Carrboro Farmers’ Market provides community, sustainability

By Leah Asmelash

An old man sells handmade mugs in a corner, in the same spot every week. He smiles and converses with the vendors and customers around him, pointing at different mugs and grinning with almost every sentence. Across from him, a farmer with three tables filled with different types of mushrooms leans against his truck, while his daughter collects money from customers. There are signs for ethically-raised meat and local dairy up ahead.

A few feet away from the vendors, kids run around on the open grass, playing soccer with a muddy yellow ball. Vans are parked on the grass, some with names of farms on the side. Everyone seems to be talking to someone else – farmers talking to customers and other farmers. They speak with the friendliness of people who have known each other for years, but they could have just met that morning.

This is the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, where every Saturday and Wednesday, dozens of farmers set up tables filled with fresh, local produce and meat. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of customers come to the market every week to shop, chatting with the farmers about new products and what’s good that week.

Although farmers’ markets can be fun for community members, the life of a farmer is not glamorous. It involves early mornings, mud, sweat, animals, animal feces and animal carcasses. It involves early mornings at farmers’ markets and pulling bugs off crops, high costs and hard labor with minimal profits. So what drives people to choose this life – a life without health benefits, a small paycheck and self-employment?

Cane Creek Farm

For Eliza MacLean, owner of Cane Creek Farm in Graham, it was love.

“I was fascinated,” she said, recalling her earlier days managing a pig herd at North Carolina A&T State University. “I fell head over heels in love.”

Although MacLean had worked with and studied animals for many years prior, she said she didn’t know anything about pigs when she started managing the herd. Working with the pigs made her realize she had a tender spot in her heart for livestock, and she became involved in evaluating farms and meat quality for hog production in North Carolina.

Three years later, Peter Kaminsky, author and writer for The New York Times, was searching for someone to care for a herd of rare Ossabaw Island hogs. MacLean was the first suggestion he received, and thus Cane Creek Farm was born, devoted to ethical raising of livestock.

Now, Cane Creek Farm is over 15-years-old. MacLean has pigs available every day of the year, harvesting three to five pigs for her butcher shop and a few more to sell at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.

Customer Driven

When talking about the slaughtering process, MacLean said she tries to cater to the customers’ desires and do what works best for her community.

“For me, that’s why I’m so small,” she said. “I want to be able to see my community. I want people to know my little story and be able to see my animals and see what they eat, know why they’re paying a little bit more.”

But no one knows the animals, loves the animals, more than MacLean. She’s the one that feeds them every day and prepares them for sale. She takes them to slaughter herself, in a trailer that she says smells like them, and she’s around the animals when they are killed.

“My kids say I treat them as well as I treat the pigs,” she said with a laugh, before further explaining her rationale.

“I want everyone to have room to be what they want to be,” she said. “A pig gets to be a pig, a chicken gets to be a chicken.”

Ethical Breeding

Despite how well she treats them, the animals are always brought to slaughter and sold.

“It doesn’t make real intuitive sense to raise something to certain death,” she said. “But again it wouldn’t be there in the first place if I hadn’t raised it, and it’s doing a good thing for my land, it’s having a nice life while it’s alive, it’s good for consumer – it all makes sense to me.”

Still, MacLean admits it is not always easy.

“It’s sad a lot of the time,” she said.

The sadness doesn’t stop her from having fun though, which she always makes sure to include in her busy schedule.

“I plan my breeding this time of year so that I’m not having babies in August, and we can be flying off rope swings and doing things that are much more appropriate for August than everybody completely stressed because it’s so friggin’ hot,” she said.

MacLean doesn’t sleep much. Instead, she floats down the Haw River while drinking a beer and kayaks in the moonlight. Her kids, both 16-years-old, chase her up mountains. These playful times are important to her, and she makes sure she doesn’t take on too much work so that there’s always, even in the middle of a workday, time for play.

Turtle Run Farm

Two miles away, on the other side of the Haw River, husband-and-wife duo Kevin and Kim Meehan grow organic vegetables on Turtle Run Farm. Before owning the farm, they were in the construction business and originally bought the land to build a house. But Kim had always loved gardening. Gradually, a few rows of vegetables turned into a few plots. In 1996, Turtle Run Farm was born.

Two years later, Kim applied for a spot at the competitive Carrboro Farmers’ Market. She said they weren’t expecting to be accepted, but they ultimately were. They began selling their produce at the Wednesday market, but eventually moved up to the Saturday one.

“Once we got into the Saturday market, we kicked it into high gear,” Kevin said.

Afterwards, their crop production continued to grow to keep up with demand, so much that they began selling honeysuckle bouquets and strawberries which grew naturally on their property, just so they would have something to sell.

They both admit that farming is exhausting, but they enjoy their job because it’s never boring.

“Farming is very satisfying work and at the end of the day you are physically exhausted but mentally enriched,” Kevin said. “Farming is always changing as the seasons come and go, and the weather and tons of other variables create challenges.”

Environmental Advocacy

For the Meehans, their farm is also a type of environmental advocacy, and they refuse to use chemicals and pesticides on their crops. Although Turtle Run is not a certified organic farm, the two are dedicated environmentalists and did not see any other way to farm besides organically.

“(Using pesticides) just never occurred to us,” Kim said.

Since they don’t use sprays and chemicals, Kim said they learned through trial and error which crops will bring a lot of bugs to their land and which ones won’t. That’s the reason why they never sell carrots, she said. They’re too difficult to manage with the bugs and critters they attract. Instead, they try to keep the bugs in check by planting flowers and plants that bloom in order to attract beneficial insects, like ladybugs, to help with pest control.

Farming Community

They also enjoy the community farming has given them, saying the Carrboro Farmers’ Market is a social network just as much as a business network. Local farmers throw parties or host farm-to-fork dinners and other events to bring the farmering community together.

“It’s a tremendous social farmer’s club,” Kim said.

It was the Carrboro Farmers’ Market that pushed the Meehans to move to the area in the first place, figuring that if they had a nice farmers’ market, the town must be pretty nice too.

“It’s a very friendly market,” Kim said.

Kim said the market was one of the best she’s been to in the country.

Alex Rike, assistant manager of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, agrees, but he says friendliness isn’t the only reason consumers come back week after week.

Buying Local

“It’s a form of consumer activism,” Rike said. “When (customers) spend their dollars at the market, they know they’re supporting their neighbor and, with the case at CFM, someone within 50 miles of where they live. And they get to know their farmer. They get to know that their food is fresh – it’s been picked within the week. They can ask questions about the growing practices.”

MacLean prides herself on the social and economic effects Cane Creek Farm, and local farms in general, have on the community.

“My land is open,” she said. “The cross-country kids run their cross-country meets through the farm. There’s a 5K that combines land in Saxapahaw and goes through the farm. Teaching people about what these animals are really like, how funny, how curious, how smart, how dignified. And keeping the money in that community. What I’m growing is being sold to my neighbors and it makes me feel really good.”

It makes Kevin and Kim feel good too. For both MacLean and the Meehans, their farms serve as ethically raised and organic offerings to their community. So what’s a little hard work for something you love, for something that brings you and your community so much joy?

Edited by Sarah Muzzillo

Chapel Hill prepares for the final chapter of The BookShop

By Audrey Wells

Elmo stood watch at the door. On his hind legs, he stared skeptically at each new customer, in perfect position to pounce if necessary. He dared them to stare back and scoffed with disapproval when they failed to meet his gaze.

The musky perfume of well-worn books engulfed the entire store. Elmo, a gray tabby, purred softly as another visitor stopped to pet him.  Secondhand books from all genres lined the walls: “Absalom, Absalom!”, “Heart of Darkness”, “Jane Eyre”, “One for the Money” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” are among the titles.

A man in a tan suit walked to the register. He was balding, tufts of gray hair sticking out on the sides of his head with a small earring gleaming in his right ear.

“I’m sorry to hear you’re closing,” the man said.

“Yeah, it’s sad, but we had a good run,” Martin Hall, the man behind the register, said optimistically. He was wearing a simple gray sweater that matched his graying hair. His wire-rimmed glasses reflected the computer screen where he was cataloging “new arrivals” to the store.

The man in the tan suit lingered at the counter in silence, his furrowed brow suggested he was thinking of what to say next.

Finally the man said, “I’m from Washington D.C. I’m only down once a year, and I always stop in here. I’ll try to stop by tomorrow since it’ll be my last time.”

“Of course, come on in and see us,” Hall responded.

The man in the suit nodded, turned and walked out the door.

After that, a calm silence fell over the store. Red, another cat in the shop, meandered out from behind a shelf, finding a new place to people-watch between shelves of mystery books. Unfazed by the floors creaking behind him, Red fixed his gaze on a middle-aged woman perusing a Janet Evanovich novel. He watched this woman’s every move through the store until the gray-haired man behind the counter said they were closing shop for the night.

Hall ushered the few remaining patrons out the door and started his nightly closing routine: feeding the cats and closing the register. These tasks took him about 15 minutes and then he turned off the lights, locked the doors and went on his way. Only 186 days until he would be closing up shop for the last time.

Background

The Bookshop, a rare and used bookstore, has been a long-standing establishment at 400 W. Franklin St. in Chapel Hill.  Currently, it’s the only secondhand bookstore on the town’s main road. But, the building’s owner said it’s hard to maintain the old 1940s era building. The store owner, different from the building owner, lives in San Jose, California. He has opted not to renew the lease that runs out July 31.

So, The Bookshop will be closing its doors after a 32-year run and Elmo and Red will be moving into a new home with a former employee.

Bill Loeser, who opened the store with Linda Saaremaa in 1985, didn’t start his independent book-selling career in Chapel Hill. He opened his first store in New Bern, but he said there weren’t many books sold there.

“The secondhand bookshop that had been in Chapel Hill for a long time went out of business in 1981, so I moved to Chapel Hill and opened my individually owned bookshop,” he said.

Loeser’s first store in Chapel Hill, Keith Martin Bookshop, was located east of Mellow Mushroom, and opened three months before Linda Saaremaa opened Bookends, a nearby competitor.

“We each owned bookstores, and it’s the kind of business that people who own such businesses want to meet and talk shop with,” Loeser said.

Eventually, the two formed a partnership, and opened The Bookshop in July 1985. Together, they started to grow what would become a collection of 80,000 books. For them, selling books is much more fun than selling clothes or groceries or really anything else.

“We wouldn’t have had bookstores if we weren’t interested in books or reading,” Loeser said.

A Fond Memory

For him, the best part of owning a secondhand bookstore was going out and buying books. One time, Loeser got a call from a woman who he assumed was about as old as he is now, 74. She said her mother had been a book collector many years ago, and that he should come take a look at what her mother had collected. So, he drove out to her small town and paid a visit.

He followed her upstairs where she pulled down the attic stairs and disappeared momentarily. Minutes later, she came teetering back down with two enormous books in her arms. He looked at the first one, which was nothing remarkable.

Loeser, worried that he might go home with nothing to show, grabbed the second book. It was two feet tall and thick, and it was old. Loeser realized just how old when he saw the title: “National History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama, Third Edition. This book, by Mark Catesby, was originally published in 1771, and this edition had enormous hand-colored pictures of alligators, Billy goats and other animals from the regions.

In a situation like this, the goal is to remain calm and not tip off the seller, but Loeser said he couldn’t do that with this book.

“I regret to report, I said ‘Oh my God!’” he said.

New Owner, New Management

Loeser and Saaremaa owned and operated the store until 2007, when they made the decision to retire. That same year, a woman from San Jose, California who had recently moved to Mebane, North Carolina came into the store and saw “For Sale” signs. She then contacted her former boss, Eric Johnson and convinced him to buy the store.

The acquisition was the third bookstore for Johnson. He placed management of the store with Betty Schumacher, a woman who had always dreamed of owning a bookstore. In her 10th year as the store’s manager, she said The Bookshop brings in about $400,000 a year, but sales have been flat for eight years.

“I can’t say it[the business model] doesn’t work because it is a thriving business in one sense, it’s just that the sales have been flat,” Schumacher said. “The owner has two other stores in California that are doing much better, so he’s trying to simplify his life.”

Lasting Impressions

Schumacher has seen 10 years of UNC students and people from all over the East Coast visiting the shop.

“It’s the only one of its kind on Franklin Street,” she said. “It’s the only one of its kind, I’d almost say in the state.”

But that’s not what she enjoys most about the store. She loves to see young families come into the store with their children. Many kids come to play with the cats, but Schumacher is delighted when they come in to read. The store has a large children’s section, and it brings a smile to Schumacher’s face when children come in to look at the books, read them and sometimes buy them.

Schumacher watches out for one girl in particular. The girl, probably no more than 7 or 8-years-old, proudly walks into the store to give Schumacher recommendations.

“They were great suggestions,” Schumacher said. “I would just write down everything she told me, and we would try to get ahold of them.”

Johnson, the store’s owner, said Chapel Hill and the Bookshop house a different community than in San Jose. Once, while in the store, he said an older woman came in and Johnson thought for sure that she came in to look at mystery or romance. But, Johnson said he was shocked when the woman came to the counter and asked where she could find the academic books and told him what book she was looking for.

“It’s refreshing and rewarding to be in such an academic community,” he said. “The community that comes really wants us here.”

As the owners of the building, Loeser and Saaremaa have gone from shop owners to landlords, and they have worked with Johnson and Schumacher for the past 10 years. About two years ago, Loeser said The Bookshop owners decided to renew their lease, without a key stipulation they had kept in the other renewals.

“The lease had a stipulation in it that they would have the right to renew the lease, and [this time] they did not ask for that revision,” Loeser said.

Without this provision, there wasn’t a guarantee the tenant would be The Bookshop when the lease was up, so Loeser and Saaremaa decided to put the building up for sale.

Meg McGurk, the executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, understands the value of bookstores in a college town. She said people in college towns like Chapel Hill, want places to learn and engage with creative thinking and ideas, and The Bookshop is that place.

“It’s place where students have sold books, where professors have had students go and buy books,” McGurk said. “It was a local bookshop, and that brought a lot of value.”

But its impact on the town or the smell of old books are not what Schumacher will miss most. She said she will miss the store itself the most because it was the closest to owning a bookstore she will ever get.

“I’ll miss the smell, I’ll miss the books and I’ll miss buying books and seeing all the new stuff that comes in, and talking about books with the customers. I love to make recommendations when people say they’re stymied and they need something good to read. I’ll miss it all,” Schumacher said.

Loeser compared the closing of the bookshop to losing a family dog. He said he couldn’t choose what he would miss most because that’s like asking what you’d miss most about having a dog. He hopes someone will open a new store, like the one he opened back in 1985, but he’ll have to wait and see.

“Just the idea of there being such a place around, makes life a little bit better,” he said.

Edited by Travis Butler

Late-night food trucks transform Tar Heel town into taco town

By Blake Richardson

Someone painted a giant mural over the brick walls of the garage — a field of grass and rocks under a light blue sky. It looks like it’s been there forever and probably took months to paint.

But it’s hard to pay much attention to the mural because the old school bus in the parking lot is captivating the crowd of customers.

Blue and purple string lights resembling glow sticks snake around the outline of the bus, which is covered in light blue paint — even the windows.

There’s an opening on the right side of the bus where a line of people wait for a late-night meal from City Bus Burritos and Tacos.

A menu boasting treats like tacos and quesadillas overhangs the opening to the food truck, where a couple of workers take orders and prepare food under florescent lighting that poses a stark contrast in the dimly lit parking lot. The young locals wait for food while watching a Spanish soap opera on the small TV that hangs on the side of the bus.

City Bus is just outside the earshot of music blasting down Franklin Street blocks to the right. The song ‘Pumpin Blood’ by NONONO comes from Chapel Hill Tire’s parking lot, where a crowd surrounds Mexican food truck Monterrey.

If the City Bus workers look past the line of customers, they can see the flashing lights of a small sign in the distance. Up close, the word “taco” on the sign becomes clear, and it  lures pedestrians to Mexican food truck Taqueria el Tejano.

Chapel Hill and Carrboro are dotted with food trucks, from the Parlez-Vous Crepe truck, to donut truck Dough Broughs, to a truck that’s the brainchild of Sup Dogs and Pantana Bob’s.  But the most competitive market is arguably the late-night taco. In a town where it seems at least one restaurant goes out of business each year, these trucks thrive despite the concentrated competition.

‘GOOD FOOD, GOOD SERVICE’

Mac is the owner of City Bus, but he won’t tell you that. He wouldn’t even share his last name.

“I don’t like titles,” he said.

The bus may look playful with its glowing lights, pictures of food and seemingly endless handwritten menu items. But Mac is dedicated to business. Even when it was too early for customers to start forming a line, he was busy working on a screen that was barely visible when looking up at him seated inside the truck.

“Good service, good food,” Mac said. “That’s what I want.”

It’s Mac’s outgoing, kind personality that makes City Bus the favorite food truck for Winston Pace, a Carrboro resident and part-time UNC-Chapel Hill student.

“He’s a real character,” Pace said. “He’s just awesome.”

City Bus came to Chapel Hill in 2011, but Mac said he’s been in the food truck business for about 10 years. City Bus has taken off, drawing a crowd of young students and the occasional older Carrboro resident.

“You can ask the people everywhere about City Bus, and they’ll tell you good food, good service,” Mac said.

City Bus brings a spicy flair to its food. Bottles of the bus’s sauce — one red and one green — sit on the metal windowsill of the truck with a plate hanging above. The words “our sauce is very spicy, hot hot” are written on the plate in red ink.

The homemade sauce is another standout for Pace. And he likes that he can customize his food.

Mac is proud of City Bus’s unique taste.

“People want to eat something different,” he said.

A FAMILIAR NAME 

Hans Vargas, one of two people working at the Monterrey food truck, goes to work at 6 p.m. on a Friday.

He doesn’t finish until 3 a.m.

Vargas works the same hours on Saturday. For each of the three taco trucks, these are two of the busiest nights each week.

“It’s food for students,” Vargas said.

Drunken students, to be exact. Vargas said most of Monterrey’s customers stop by the food truck after a night out at a Chapel Hill bar. Most are happy, some are flirtatious, but all are hungry for Mexican food.

With fresh green paint, flashing lights and menus with light-up borders, Monterrey is the most polished looking of the food trucks. The vehicle is even equipped with a stereo to blast music.

But Vargas said the food sets Monterrey apart.

“Everything is fresh,” he said.

The food at Monterrey is restaurant-quality because Monterrey did not start out as a food truck.

Monterrey began as a Chapel Hill restaurant in 1996 and later opened a second location in Carrboro. The food truck is the newest addition to the business, and it can be found about halfway between the two restaurants.

The food truck offerings, which are prepared at the restaurant beforehand, are just a sample of some items on Monterrey’s menu.

Vargas has been working at Monterrey’s food truck for six months, and he has seen the business prosper. In fact, sometimes the truck gets so busy that four workers cram inside instead of two.

On slow nights, the truck brings in revenue by renting the spots in Chapel Hill Tire’s parking lot — free for customers, but $5 for everyone else.

While City Bus is Pace’s favorite, he comes to Monterrey at least three times each week to grab some food after work. He enjoys the variety of items on Monterrey’s  menu.

“They also sell chips, which none of the other ones do,” Pace said.

But Vargas said the competition doesn’t affect Monterrey too much because the other two trucks draw more customers from Carrboro.

“It’s too much taco trucks,” Vargas said. “Only in Chapel Hill is only one.”

FAMILY FLAVORS

Taqueria el Tejano is the fifth truck that 23-year-old owner Roberto Garcia’s family has operated.

Garcia is from Houston, Texas, and his family opened a food truck called El Taquito when Garcia was 5 years old. The family moved to North Carolina when he was 9 years old and started selling the food at night to people working in factories and tobacco fields in Henderson.

The right side of the metallic truck is covered with pictures and colorful signs describing items on the menu. A collection of colorful Jarritos sodas in glass bottles rest against the window of the truck. Positioned at the front of the nearly empty Wings Over parking lot, Taqueria el Tejano radiates light.

“We have our own style, our unique flavor,” Garcia said.

This truck is Victoria Garcia’s favorite. The Carrboro resident comes once a week for a corn taco with lime, lettuce, tomato, cheese and other toppings. She pairs the treat with a Jarritos soda. She prefers the truck because of the quality of the meat.

“It has no fat,” she said while sitting at the small wooden table propped next to the truck. “And it’s juicy.”

Roberto Garcia’s mom prepares the food at home each day for her son to sell at night. The family recipe traces back to Garcia’s grandmother, giving the food truck an authentic flavor of San Luís Potosí, the Mexican region that Garcia’s mom is from.

Taqueria el Tejano draws a wide variety of customers, including students, residents, visitors at nearby hotel and Tar Heels fans going to catch a game.

Roberto Garcia’s favorite part about the business is his interactions with a wide array of people — from the friendly conversations to a “thank you” at the cash register.

“Good food to people, that’s always good to see,” he said.

COMPETITION OR CAHOOTS?

Pace has a theory that the three food trucks are in cahoots.

“I have always wondered if they had connections to each other in any way, or if it’s some sort of taco mafia going on,” he said. “That’s a true mystery of the town.”

Do they buy supplies in bulk together to make food cheaper? Or coordinate sales to fix the competition? Pace doesn’t know, but he likes to think there’s something.

If there is a conspiracy between the owners, they’re keeping it well-hid. Mac seemed to hardly notice the competitors nearby.

“I don’t know about what they serve,” Mac said. “I care about mine.”

Vargas also did not seem worried about competition because Monterrey is the closest to downtown Chapel Hill.

Victoria Garcia suspects early restaurant closing times allow the food trucks to thrive. Because they’re the only places open, the three trucks can dominate late-night business.

“I love other restaurants,” she said. “But I’m not hungry before 9 p.m.”

Each truck caters to its niche — a group of loyalists who decide which truck they like best and keep coming back. Those customers allow each truck to prosper.

“Everyone you ask will have a different favorite,” Pace said.

Roberto Garcia said he appreciates the competition.

“It makes you want to be better,” he said. “Makes you want your service to be better, your food to be better.

“So it betters you as a person and as a business owner.”

Edited by Ryan Wilusz

A new norm of perfection: Women find meaning in makeup

By Cinnamon Moore

Opening the door of a Sephora store is like opening Pandora’s box.

Normally built within its partner store, J.C. Penney, the cosmetic giant stands in sharp contrast to the relatively relaxed and neutral-colored department store.

Bright, white lights draw the eye’s attention to a space filled with a kaleidoscope of colors. Black and white-striped walls lend a Mad Hatter feeling to the space, beckoning those passing by to drop in just to have a look at the creatively controlled chaos. As planned, many women succumb to the not-so-quiet calling.

After taking the necessary seconds to adjust to the sheer magnanimity of a cosmetic store, one can marvel at just how many products are actually sold in this one relatively small space.

At least 50 mini-aisles fill the store, with a cosmetic company claiming either a side or a whole aisle. In these islands of small, packaged products, one can find every shade of matte, gloss or colored lipstick (there’s a huge difference between the three), makeup primer — a foundation that meets your skin tone and chemical preference — concealer, about a hundred different shades of brown eyeshadow, lip liner… The list goes on.

Urban Decay, first mini-aisle to the right, has a hundred different shades just in its Vice Lipstick line.

With each row of products color-coded and spotlighted, the effect of the cosmetic store can be dizzying. Mirrors adorn every possible surface so there’s never an excuse not to try on that shade of Nighthawk matte lipstick.

All of these products cater to the new, makeup-savvy woman of 2017.

With the growth of the cosmetic industry as proof of the world’s obsession with makeup, any curious person may wonder at the reason behind the boom in beauty products.

A survey funded by Renfrew Center Foundation, a national nonprofit dedicated to the education and prevention of eating disorders, found that 44 percent of women experienced negative feelings when not wearing makeup. That means nearly half of women in America feel uncomfortable in their bare skin and pressured to put on a mask.

Many have begun questioning the world’s reliance on makeup. A movement was even started by singer Alicia Keys promoting #NoMakeup and encouraging women to feel comfortable in their own skin — no makeup necessary.

Yet, in the midst of two warring sides telling ladies what to do with their face, a group of women journalists, bloggers and social media users have voiced their disregard for the opinions of others. Instead of a social obligation, these women emphasize that wearing makeup is fun and an expression of personality.

An artist with a new, blank canvas every morning.

With all these voices showering women with opinions, it begs the question of why the average young woman wears makeup: for men, for her peers or simply for herself?


“I’m drawn to stylish, classy, sophisticated women. How they carry themselves, the clothing they wear…and I think makeup is definitely a part of that. It adds a bit of mystery to who they are.” – Amiel Elbitar, 24


Using makeup is not a novel concept. Throughout history, women of all eras have applied makeup to conform to the flitting trends of the time. From the infamous dark kohl lining in ancient Egypt to the shaved eyebrows and ghostly pale powdered faces of the Elizabethan era, women have been altering the look of their faces for centuries. But while cosmetics were previously used as an aspect to make women stand out, now it helps women blend in.

“I feel like everyone is staring at me if I go out barefaced,” said Nicole Gonzalez, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In today’s culture, blemishes should be quickly hidden and the natural attractive aspects of the face enhanced. We live in a society of perfection.

A 2013 study by financial website Mint.com revealed that the average woman spends $15,000 on makeup in her lifetime.

Gonzalez admitted that she spends around $100 a month on cosmetics and watches various YouTube tutorials on how to use them. Her cache includes an array of eyeliners to make her deep brown eyes pop, highlighters and contour powder to make her face more angular and her cheekbones more pronounced, and a dizzying array of lipsticks to reflect whatever mood she’s in that day.

Alyssa Lashway, a recent UNC-Charlotte graduate, said as an individual with naturally oily skin, she often feels self-conscious about her face looking shiny.

“I don’t mind going out without makeup,” Lashway said, “but I do find myself thinking about how shiny my skin is probably looking.”

Because first impressions are very visual, Lashway said, she often feels pressured to make sure her face is powdered and absent of its natural shine.


“It’s definitely on a case-by-case basis, but I usually prefer women with makeup. It enhances beauty to a certain extend.” – Matthew McDonough, senior at St. Lawrence University


As a society frequently reprimanded for its obsession with perfection, it’s not surprising that a flawless face would be added to the laundry list of considerations toward the ideal individual.

“I wear makeup because if I don’t, I feel like I have no life in my face … and lots of imperfections,” Gonzalez said.

“Society has stigmatized women who don’t wear makeup,” said Amiel Elbitar, 24. “Women want to look good and have others see them as put together. Makeup is now a nuance of what and who they are.”

The United States is now the biggest cosmetic market in the world, with just above $60 billion in cosmetic revenue. From highlighters to mascara, the average woman is building up an impressive collection of beauty products. Essentially, makeup has become the norm of our society, a fact that cosmetic companies are both profiting from and exploiting.

In 2015, L’Oréal spent $2.2 billion in advertising and was rewarded with a $3.5 billion net profit. While not inherently mandatory, makeup products are simply seen as a way of life now, even bleeding into the professional realm.

“I feel like if I don’t have makeup on then I am not professionally presentable,” said MaryKate Frisch, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill.

A study funded by Procter & Gamble in 2011 found that when given a choice between women with and without makeup, a majority of participants, both men and women, judged women with makeup as more competent.

Like a pair of pressed slacks or a button-down blazer, cosmetics have become a way for women to look simply more put together and qualified.

“Makeup is sort of expected,” said Phillip Love, a 22-year-old student at Palmer University. “It’s become part of a woman’s outfit.”

Cosmetics to a woman are equitable to a haircut on a man — just a bit more expensive. And like a great haircut, women who have mastered the art of makeup, more often than not, receive high commendation.


“I think women without makeup are more easily approachable, absolutely. But I still find myself drawn to women who are wearing it, even if it’s just a little bit of makeup.” – Phillip Love, 22, student at Palmer University


Over the last few years, women and feminists have begun embracing the idea of makeup as both a creative outlet and a tool, instead of a necessity.

“Twenty or 30 years ago, if you got dressed up, it was simply to please men, or it was something you were doing because society demands it,” Nancy Etcoff, a psychology professor at Harvard University, told the New York Times in an interview. “Women and feminists today see this as their own choice, and it may be an effective tool.”

Matthew McDonough, a student at St. Lawrence University, said makeup can make women look either professional or sexy depending on the situation or their mood.

“On an active basis, I find the women in my life wear makeup more for themselves than for others,” he said.

Makeup makes them feel not only more attractive, but also more in control.

Essentially, many women are embracing makeup as an avenue to curtail how the world sees them. They’re taking something that the world deems mandatory and using it as a tool in their arsenal.

Makeup is now, whether we like it or not, an integral part of our society. While strongly dependent on it, women have the choice to use it as a crutch or use it as a means of personal expression. From eyeshadow colors to choice of lipstick, makeup can be a fun and creative way to add dimensions to one’s image and a flare of personality— like choosing an outfit for the day.

But, with this creativity comes an underlying understanding that makeup shouldn’t be determinant of self-worth. This means that while it may be more expected in certain circumstances, like business casual attire, it isn’t needed for every endeavor out of the house.

“I feel like people expect you to be looking fresh-faced all the time, which is not always the case,” Lashway said.

With a busy life, she said, there are simply things that are more important than a perfectly put-on face.

While it’s easy to get lost in the endless aisles of a Sephora store, it’s equally easy to get lost in the need for makeup. The key is to remember that everyone is trying to be a perfect human in an imperfect society.

Edited by Sara Salinas