Sheer Ambrosia: a businesswoman’s journey

Story by JUSTIN GALLETLY

Sherrita “Rita” Magalde is the owner of Sheer Ambrosia, a small business based in Salt Lake City dedicated to baking baklava to sell to customers.

Over the last year, Magalde’s business has reached new heights.

She’s seen a big spike in sales and has met arguably the greatest commercial success of her business’s lifetime.

However, it wasn’t always glitz and glamour for her brand, as she, like many up-and-coming small-business owners, ran into many roadblocks along the way.

Many of these roadblocks predate her business’s very foundation and go back several years before she even came up with the idea to sell homemade baklava.

During a phone interview, she explained that she’s been involved in independent, entrepreneurial endeavors stretching as far back as the mid-90s.

In 1996, she and her then-husband moved from Spain to Salt Lake City due to its reputation as a great place to go skiing.

She started a small mortgage brokerage and later ran a travel agency with her husband.

Despite her success with her independently run business, her relationship with her husband wouldn’t last in the long run.

“We were six years into running the travel agency when we got a divorce and neither one of us wanted to leave the business. So we tried to make it work, but I was very unhappy so I decided to quit. I still wanted to be a business owner, but I wanted something that was all my own, so he bought me out of the agency in 2008, which is when I also started the bakery,” she said.

Rita Magalde

Magalde always enjoyed cooking and baking, having grown up learning from her mother.

Baklava, the dessert Magalde’s business is built around, was primarily learned from hanging around a Greek family she worked with while growing up in North Carolina.

“The baklava has stuck with me through the years, so I decided I wanted to see if I could turn it into a business. So I decided to start slow from home and got a cottage food license from the Department of Agriculture and began my baklava business then,” Magalde said.

Despite her experience running independent businesses in the past, the transition was not a smooth endeavor.

“One of the big differences between running a travel agency and a bakery is now you have to deal with inventory,” Magalde said. “It also isn’t as lucrative a business as a travel agency, so I’m selling my baklava at $3 a piece and wasn’t able to hire people right away. Also, unlike when I began the travel industry, I now had two children and was without a partner.”

She also refused to take any bank loans and only used the funds she gathered from selling her share of the travel agency.

The barrier to entry felt much steeper than previous endeavors.

Over time, she was able to find a degree of success with her business.

In 2013, five years after beginning Sheer Ambrosia, she took a big step to legitimize her business.

She ventured out into a commercial space in hopes of getting more people to take her business seriously.

“I put $50,000 of my own money into the space to build it out and was able to legitimize my business and really bring Sheer Ambrosia to the forefront. People weren’t taking me seriously until I did that,” she said.

Although while her business continued to do well, it didn’t do as well as she had hoped.

After the death of her father, Magalde decided to cut back, as the long hours which required her to work upward of 16-hour days every day of the week took its toll on her.

“I decided to sell the space to another bakery and moved Sheer Ambrosia back into my home,” Magalde said. “I fell into some debt, and my son who was graduating high school wanted to go to an expensive college. So I said I’m going to sell my home so I could get out of debt and allow my son to go to the college he wanted to attend.”

Things got especially stressful when the pandemic hit.

 Magalde’s business, like many small businesses, was severely hit when it all began.

“No one wanted baklava, they all wanted toilet paper and hand sanitizer, so I had to get another job to make ends meet when the pandemic hit,” she said.

Rita Magalde

Then, in the midst of the pandemic, a tragedy occurred that shook the entire nation to its core.

“In horror, we got to see George Floyd murdered before our very faces by a Minneapolis police officer. Black people have been watching this kind of thing happen for years, and it seems as though the white community has been oblivious to it,” she said. “Right after that, there were so many white folks in the community who decided they wanted to support local Black-owned businesses.”

While Magalde was initially reluctant to embrace this swell of support because she didn’t want to feel she was capitalizing off a tragedy, she changed her mindset when she realized how it played into a good cause.

“I started to think about it and saw that these were people who don’t necessarily want to protest in the street. They don’t want to get out there and hold a sign and yell, and walk the street protesting that way. This is their way of putting their money where their mouth is by supporting Black-owned businesses,” she said.

She also came to realize that while they may initially support her business because she’s Black, that didn’t mean they would continue their support if her products weren’t satisfying.

“It’s still my job as a business owner to make sure they want to come back by giving them a quality product and amazing service. So it’s not going to be free service, I still have to earn their repeat service, so this a challenge for me,” she said.

The success led to a busy holiday season, one where she would need some additional help if she was going to continue thriving.

Helene Simpson and her daughter, Desi Hayda, offered their services.

“She’s very dedicated. She’s very grateful for everything, and it’s hard that it was the death of somebody which created an influx of sales, her product is what continues her business and for people to come back to her,” Simpson said during a phone interview. “It’s not just because people think ‘Black Lives Matter’ and only supporting her for that reason. She sells quality products, has excellent customer service.”

Simpson said she appreciates Magalde’s positive guidance.

“I think she’s very thorough. Just how she explains things to you and wants things done, and that’s to be expected because everything she does is pretty perfectionist, so you just follow her instructions and help her out when you can. She’s awesome to work for,” Hayda said.

“Now I’ve got a following that I can parlay this into growth for my business, and I’m hoping for one day to quit my second job and go back to running my business full-time,” Magalde said.

Steven L. Johnson, CEO of Luke, Johnson & Lewis and Utah Black Chamber Chair, speaks about activism for Utah’s Black community

Story by SUNWHEE MIKE PARK

Steven L. Johnson watched in awe, as the legendary California Congresswoman Maxine Waters commanded the attention of a crowd in Utah’s prestigious Alta Club – an institution that formerly did not allow memberships to women or Black people. He could not believe that he was seated at her table, much less that they had just discussed the growth of Utah’s Black economy together. A surreal sense of pride washed over Johnson in that moment, as it dawned on him that in this room, he stood among Congresswoman Waters’ ranks as a revered and respected activist.

But it would take nearly a decade of devotion to Utah’s Black community before such a moment could arrive.

In 2000, Johnson packed up everything he owned and moved to Utah from Denver, Colorado. A freshly divorced ex-sister-in-law who needed help getting settled was reason enough for him to make the arduous 500-mile move. This decision was the first of countless others in Johnson’s new life in Utah in which he would move mountains to help those he cared for.

Throughout his first year in the Beehive State, Johnson became increasingly aware of the stark contrast between his native Denver and Salt Lake City. Chiefly, he noticed that the Black community in Utah was not only small (comprising roughly 0.7% of the entire state’s population then), but seemed also to be stalling and struggling.

Steven L. Johnson is chair of the Utah Black Chamber, and CEO of Luke, Johnson & Lewis. He is a devoted activist who has served UT’s Black community for almost a decade. Photo courtesy of Steven L. Johnson.

At this time, Johnson was used to the thriving Black community in Denver, which he recalled was akin to those of Black meccas like Atlanta or Detroit. In Denver, Johnson reminisced, Black-owned businesses had longevity and were often core components of the city’s booming economy. In Salt Lake City, however, he had trouble finding Black businesses that branched out from the archetypal barbeques or barbershops.

After a decade of wondering who and where the state’s Black professionals were, Johnson finally found himself at the Utah Black Chamber’s annual community barbeque hosted in Sugarhouse Park.

At long last, there they were. Utah’s Black business owners, professionals and community leaders. Observing Utah’s Black community at large for the first time, Johnson finally felt at home in a land that had only been unfamiliar to him until then. “I met more Black people at that event than I had seen in the [years] that I had been here,” says Johnson over the phone in a surprisingly youthful voice. “It was really eye-opening. It made me feel comfortable.”

There he met James Jackson III, founder of the Utah Black Chamber, known then as African Americans Advancing in Commerce, Communication, Education and Leadership (ACCEL). The fateful meeting, spurred on by Johnson’s wife (then-girlfriend), sparked the flame that produced two of Utah’s most revered Black leaders today. “When I met James, it was like a new beginning,” Johnson says, “[like] I might have the chance to help make a difference or a change here in Utah.”

Inspired by Jackson’s passion and devotion to the growth of Utah’s Black community, Johnson found himself increasingly involved in activism as well. But his methods transcended attending community events or facilitating networking between Black Utahns.

In 2011, Paul Law Office – where Johnson worked as a collections manager – shut down indefinitely. Johnson, however, did not lament his new unemployment. Using his final paycheck, Johnson jumped headfirst into entrepreneurship. He founded Luke, Johnson & Lewis (with partner Preston Lewis), a debt arbitration business that specializes in third-party recovery and collecting receivables.

For Johnson, this new venture was more than a simple means to earn profit. As one of the state’s handful of Black CEOs, he wanted his business to serve as a “beta test” for other pioneering Black businesses in Utah. By watching and learning from Luke, Johnson & Lewis, he hoped, future generations of Black-owned Utah businesses would thrive like those he remembered from his years in Denver.

Meanwhile, James Jackson had plans of his own for Johnson. Seven years into the growth of the Utah Black Chamber, Jackson was eager to increase its influence on a statewide level. In order to achieve such a feat, he required the strategic expertise and interpersonal skills of a seasoned legal professional. He brought Johnson on as the Black Chamber’s board chair in 2015, and later made him the chair of its membership committee as well. “Based on [his] leadership, experience, and desires … I felt [these positions] fit him the best to help grow the [Black] Chamber,” Jackson says in an email.

James Jackson III (left) and Steven L. Johnson receive awards from the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. for their work in the Utah Black Chamber in 2018. Photo courtesy of Steven L. Johnson.

Nicknamed the Black Chamber’s “Swiss Army knife,” Johnson took on a range of responsibilities – from strategizing the expansion of the Black Chamber’s membership, making connections with sponsors and spotlighting member businesses on a monthly basis, to furthering plans to establish the long-awaited Black Success Center.

Johnson, in addition to running his own business, was now leading the state’s largest Black-based organization. Yet his activism was still only in its fledgling stage.

Johnson explains that his personal philosophy forbids him from feeling as though he has ever done enough. “If you feel satisfied, you’ve closed the book. The chapter’s over,” he says. That’s why, in 2017, Johnson began a partnership with state lobbyist Craig Hulinsky to start the Good Deed Law Project.

Johnson explains that the Good Deed Law Project was founded with the goal of helping people in debt find alternative ways to pay off or reduce their overdue payments. Acting as the project’s Debt Initiative director, Johnson discovered methods to persuade businesses to write off debts as charitable donations, while allowing debtors to work off their sum in community service or work hours.

So far, Johnson’s debt arbitration model at the Good Deed Law Project has resolved $385,000 of debt while producing 10,000 community work hours. Johnson explains excitedly that his model has put over 500 debtors back on track to financial stability.

“He sets an example … in the Black community. His lifestyle is to be copied,” writes Rev. France A. Davis in an email interview. Davis, pastor emeritus of the Calvary Baptist Church, is another one of Utah’s highly revered Black leaders and an individual that Johnson considers his personal mentor. As part of the latest addition to Johnson’s activism, he and the reverend have recently become members of the Racial Equity in Policing Commission for Salt Lake City. There, the pair are able to review and make recommendations to the city’s police department about its policies, specifically regarding racial biases.

Twenty-one years ago, Johnson arrived in Utah without a job, without a home, with only the feeling that he was needed, that he could help. Now, as one of the state’s most active and respected Black leaders, his foundational drive to help those in need remains the same. Despite his many titles and roles – CEO, board chair, director, commissioner – Johnson’s activism is only just beginning.

“Utah’s Black community is growing … and I want to be there to witness [its] development,” Johnson says humbly about the very community that could not exist today were it not for his tireless efforts.

Black-owned businesses’ positive contributions elevate Utah’s Black community

Story by SUNWHEE MIKE PARK

Salt Lake City’s NAACP Chapter vice president Shawn Newell joined an asynchronous interview with student journalists at the University of Utah in early February. There, he said that one of the biggest issues that any Black community in America faces is its misrepresentation in mainstream media. “[They] wait until there’s a murder or … a gang fight … before [they] go into these communities, and then [they] want to engage people,” he said.

For the most part, his words ring true for the Black community in Utah as well. An internet search of the words “Utah Black” or “Utah African American” brings up stories about Black culture’s rejection in Utah, or how difficult it is to be Black in such an overwhelmingly white state.

What these stories fail to show is that Utah’s Black community is actually full of supportive, successful and ambitious individuals who are devoted to its growth and development. Despite their sheer lack of coverage from mainstream news outlets, the state’s myriad professionals, business owners and community leaders contribute daily to the continued success of Black Utahns.

To observe the effects of their positive influences in the state’s Black community firsthand, Voices of Utah spoke with three of Salt Lake City’s Black leaders as they explained the ways they make a difference in their community, and why the work they do matters.

Makaya Caters

Chef Roody Salvator moved to Utah in 2008 from Florida, hoping to find a corporate job. The last thing on his mind then was to become a professional chef. However, on casual weekend gatherings with friends, he was drawn instinctively to the kitchen. He recreated dishes from his native Haiti that he remembered from his childhood – flavors that his American friends had never tasted before.

Saying that his food was, “too good not to share,” Salvator’s friends urged him for years to consider cooking professionally. Even though he had been training for an office job for nearly a decade, Salvator finally decided to take a leap of faith and open Makaya Caters in 2017, with the humble goal of bringing a taste of Haiti to Salt Lake City. Renting out a kitchen space on 300 W. Paxton Ave., Salvator started taking appointments to cater weddings, parties and corporate meetings.

Makaya quickly rose to fame in the Salt Lake City community. Along with his business’s success, Salvator soon amassed a social media following of 10,000 people and boasted exclusively five-star rated reviews. Despite his rapid success, however, Salvator did not lose sight of his foundational ideology in cooking. 

Chef Roody Salvator is the founder and owner of Makaya Caters. Makaya is the official catering service of Black Lives Matter Utah, and is well known for its food donations across the city. Photo courtesy of Makaya Caters.

“I came from a place where I knew what hunger feels like … [and] to not know where your next meal’s going to come from,” says Salvator about his upbringing in Haiti over a phone interview. “If someone is hungry … and I have the means to feed them, I will do that.”

Turning to the community that embraced him, Salvator began making food donations with any surplus ingredients he had. He delivered meals free of charge to the Salt Lake Regional Medical Center, and to the Black Lives Matter Utah summer camps – the latter of which saw Makaya becoming BLM Utah’s official catering service.

When the pandemic arrived in 2020, however, Salvator was met with unprecedented challenges. He lost almost all of his catering clients who held in-person events, and was forced to switch his business model to a more affordable food trailer operation. He reluctantly set up a GoFundMe page, asking now for the help of the very community which he fondly cared for in the past.

Even so, Salvator’s commitment to the Salt Lake City community remained unhindered. Working odd hours out of a food trailer that is too small to be considered a kitchen space but too big to parallel park, Salvator still managed to cook and donate 50 meals to the city’s homeless population in November 2020.

Salvator says that his dream for Makaya Caters now is to establish a physical store location in the near future – to continue his work both in the kitchen and in the community. Two-thirds of his desired $10,000 goal has been reached on his GoFundMe page, which aims to keep Makaya in business in order to continue its important mission.

A ‘La Mode

In 2014, sisters Jasmine and Angelique Gordon founded an online shopping service with a mission to empower women of all shapes, sizes and social backgrounds. Their business, A ‘La Mode, caters to specific fashion needs on a budget.

The sisters’ successful business model – which promotes women of color who have realistic body types, and uses an accessible custom-styling system on their website – has garnered high praise from their clients over the past seven years. In fact, the sisters’ massive success inspired them in 2018 to open an offline boutique on 265 E. 900 South in downtown Salt Lake City.

That’s when they began to feel that they could branch out of their client base to serve a wider community. “When we moved to Salt Lake after [being] online for a couple of years … our No. 1 focus was being more engaged in our city,” says co-founder and owner Jasmine Gordon in a phone interview about her and her sister’s decision to contribute to their newfound community.

Angelique (left) and Jasmine Gordon are founders and owners of A ‘La Mode. The sisters help their Salt Lake City clients network through their business, and donate frequently to various charities. Photo courtesy of A ‘La Mode.

The sisters began by partnering with other small businesses in the area (Utah Key Real EstateImage Studios and Olympus Health & Performance, to name a few) to host monthly networking events for their clients. Soon enough, they found themselves donating to notable charities like YWCA Utah, as well as to the Rose Park Elementary School and the city’s growing homeless population. The two were even on the board to plan a women’s music festival before the pandemic began.

Despite these numerous contributions to their community, the sisters were not exempt from the challenges of being Black entrepreneurs in Utah. Jasmine Gordon recalls that at first, she was fearful that A ‘La Mode’s use of Black models in their advertisements and on their website would be considered “too Black” for Utah’s majority white audience. The phrase, she says, is one that has been used to devalue the success of Black Utahns for generations.

That’s why Gordon says that her goal now is to keep on succeeding as a Black entrepreneur in order to serve as a positive example of Black leadership to the youth. “Seeing Black adults in day-to-day leadership roles … as teachers, as coaches, as local business owners … is something that sticks in their minds,” she says.

Utah Black Chamber

James Jackson III is regarded as one of the most ambitious and devoted leaders in Utah’s Black community today. Working as the supplier diversity program manager at the Zions Bancorporation and as the principal consultant at J3 Motivation (a company he owns and runs), Jackson is also the founder and executive director of the Utah Black Chamber.

But 12 years ago, Jackson was just a young section manager at Morgan Stanley who noticed that Utah’s Black population greatly lacked a sense of community. Even though Black Utahns made up only 0.9% of the entire state’s population, Jackson realized, they rarely had opportunities to connect with one another.

That’s why, in 2009, Jackson took it upon himself to create an organization that could lay the foundations for a tightly knit Black community in Utah. He named his new project ACCEL – short for African Americans Advancing in Commerce, Communication, Education and Leadership (which he now admits was a horrendously long name) – and began efforts to facilitate networking between the state’s Black professionals.

Jackson fondly recalls his first ever networking event with ACCEL, which he absent-mindedly planned for a 6th of July. While he worried that the event would be overshadowed by Independence Day festivities, over 60 people showed up keen to connect with fellow Black professionals. On that day, Jackson realized that his fledgling project could serve as a true catalyst for the creation of a thriving Black community in Utah.

Since then, Jackson has worked tirelessly for over a decade to grow his organization (now called the Utah Black Chamber after two name changes) to what he calls an “enterprise.” With nearly 500 members, three separate chapters across the state, and plans to create a Black Success Center to offer training to Black professionals, the Utah Black Chamber has grown into the state’s most formidable Black-run organization.

Transcending the realm of networking, the Utah Black Chamber now focuses on providing financial training to Black business owners, championing Black leaders for local government positions, and even plans to open a transitional housing complex for struggling homeowners. Its goal now, says Jackson in a Zoom interview, is to elevate Utah’s Black community to a level that will garner national renown and respect.

“It’s exhausting but we know that this is the role that we play,” Jackson reflects, “to be the voice for those that just don’t have one.”

Caribbean Nightingale: Utah’s first poetry salon connecting the community through the arts

Story by KENZIE WALDON

Poetry is a language that speaks to all different kinds of souls, connecting those who are in tune with the rhythm. A space to express this creative outlet can expand one’s own view to the variety of cultures that surround them in a community. 

Caribbean Nightingale is one such place. This Provo-based poetry café and boutique creates a space for artistic diversity in Utah. Michaëlle Martial, a Haitian-born poet and the creative force behind Caribbean Nightingale, is breaking barriers by spotlighting the mixture of talent that Utah has to offer. 

“Nightingale is a bird I always liked to read about as a teen, you know, from poetry,” Martial said during a Zoom interview. “Then I found out several years ago that the Nightingale was the only bird that sang both day and night.” 

The nightingale’s significance resonates deeply with Martial, both as a working mother and as a survivor of trauma and domestic violence. She decided to name her new business Caribbean Nightingale, the same moniker Martial uses for performing. “When it was time to register the business, I just thought it was a great idea to keep my stage name as the name of the business just because it has a lot of meaning,” Martial said. 

Michaëlle Marital performing her poetry as Caribbean Nightingale during a Relaxation Through Verse event. Courtesy of the Caribbean Nightingale website. Photographed by Tania Luiza Linson.

The business of Caribbean Nightingale began in 2018 with Relaxation Through Verse. This is the poetry salon’s main event that is held in various locations around Utah offering a safe space for multicultural artists to express themselves freely. “The poetry salon is there to uplift the community as a whole but also to help promote local and emerging artists,” Martial said. “We wanted to have an uplifting experience between the community and the artists.”

These intimate events have been stationed in art galleries to coffee shops and attract developing artists from all kinds of backgrounds. Gianfranco Fernandez-Ruiz, a Dominican Republic-born artist, is one of many to connect with Martial at one of the Relaxation Through Verse poetry readings. 

Gianfranco Fernandez-Ruiz performing his boom bap-inspired poetry at a Relaxation Through Verse event. Courtesy of the Caribbean Nightingale website. Photographed by Nicole Tyana Photography.

“Ever since, we’ve been homies,” Fernandez-Ruiz said in a Zoom interview. “I’m just on the other side of that island, she’s from Haiti and I’m from the Dominican Republic. So that Caribbean business, it goes a long way.”

Fernandez-Ruiz is both a poet and a multi-disciplined creative. “I mean, I graduated in English,” he said. “So, I’m all things in the arts, I do nonfiction, I do fiction. I’m a filmmaker. I’m a screenwriter, director, and I do poetry.” With the help of an ongoing Kickstarter, he is currently in the process of creating a tongue-and-cheek horror comedy movie called, “Saborrrr!”

Another performer at the Relaxation Through Verse is local musician Mel Soul. Soul attended one of Caribbean Nightingale’s events and was so touched by Martial’s poetry that she felt inspired to share her own writing and music.

“Michaëlle has kindly had myself and my drummer band mate Everett Spencer connect through her business as one of her featured musician artists for her live stream events,” Soul said in an email interview.

“Caribbean Nightingale offers poets, artists and businesswomen a safe haven for anyone (especially any person of color) to feel safe and connected through the expression of art in all forms,” Soul said.

Mel Soul (left) and Everett Spencer performing as Mel Soul & The Messenger at a Relaxation Through Verse event. Courtesy of the Caribbean Nightingale website. Photographed by Tania Luiza Linson.

Another addition to Caribbean Nightingale’s poetry salon is the TiGla Boutique, a shop and alternative outlet of highlighting the diverse talents that reside in Utah. It’s also a way to honor Martial’s mother, who was a fashion designer and seamstress. “That’s my way of amplifying Black voices, as I was trying to create some sort of legacy for my mother’s memory who passed less than a year and a half ago,” Martial said.

TiGla Boutique retails merchandise from the artists who perform at Relaxation Through Verse along with Martial’s own poetry books and other authors of African descent. Whether it be fashion, music or literature, TiGla Boutique markets the products created by these local artists, a concept Martial absorbed from her mother who was always trying to help women in her own community. 

“I thought I would do something similar to help me not only feel closer to her, but to also help other artists in my community and in the Black community, specifically,” Martial said. 

The most recent addition to Caribbean Nightingale’s business is the blog titled, “Black Joy Is…” This blog enlightens readers on Martial’s individual perceptions throughout her life. “It’s my personal insight as a woman, a Black woman, immigrant woman, and a poet,” Martial said. “And how travel and healing are intersected when it comes to self-care and self-love.”

While Caribbean Nightingale is connecting Utah’s diversity through art, being a one-of-a-kind business in this state still has its challenges. “Well, it’s been a journey,” Martial said, chuckling.

“There are a lot of obstacles that Black artists get into, you know, that is preventing them from succeeding within a business such as Caribbean Nightingale,” Martial said. “And sometimes Black artists don’t know that there’s so many opportunities available.”

But Caribbean Nightingale’s recent spark of exposure came in 2020 when Martial, along with five other Black-owned businesses in Utah, were selected to receive the Comcast RISE Prize. Caribbean Nightingale is the first of its kind to receive this award from Comcast, which generally supplies a business with the materials and technology it needs in order to succeed. 

Since Caribbean Nightingale is a business operated from home and restructured to hosting events virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, Comcast needed to think outside of the box for how this award would be beneficial. The prize ultimately paid for a professionally produced commercial that will air from March to June on various Utah networks and be available on the Caribbean Nightingale website.

Martial is currently in the process of releasing a downloadable poetry album as well as organizing Relaxation Through Verse events through spring and summer 2021, both virtual and in person. Martial said donations collected at these events will be distributed among the performers and be given to local shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness. 

Martial’s dream of Caribbean Nightingale is almost 10 years in the making and has cracked open the artistic diversity that bubbles under Utah’s surface. Her advice to any aspirating entrepreneur who is wanting to invest in their passion is to always be mindful of the process. Or in Martial’s words, “You know, life is short, like our slogan with the coffee station, diverse life is short. Take it one sip, one rhyme and one note at a time.”

HoneyComb Café: A taste of a rising small business that’s using one of Utah’s natural ingredients

Story by KENZIE WALDON

New Year’s resolutions always open the possibility for new opportunities. That’s how Bailey Johnson and her sister BreAnna King felt at the beginning of 2020 when they made their goal of opening a bakery/coffee shop. This was the year they were finally ready to conjure this lifelong dream into a reality.

Then the pandemic struck. COVID-19’s chaotic attack on daily life led to postponement and reconfiguration of beginning the business they always envisioned.

“We felt super bummed out,” Johnson said in an email interview, “but then ultimately decided that Utah needed another Black owned business this year.” 

By October 2020, Johnson independently opened the virtual doors to the HoneyComb Café, a “Black and women owned bake shop,” serving dairy and vegan pastries with honey harvested from local hives by the team.

The HoneyComb Café’s logo, courtesy of its Instagram profile. Designed by Victor J. Herrera.

Johnson initiated this online bakery offering local delivery or pick-up from their new Cottonwood Heights-based industrial kitchen at 1164 E. Hemmingway Drive. Since its opening, the HoneyComb Café has quickly grown in popularity with the use of social media platforms, such as Instagram, and through involvement in the local community.

“We started with a pop-up shop with two other vendors to get our names out there and get our feet off the ground,” Johnson said. She credits their fast growth to “an amazing community of fellow bakers, [but] word of mouth has been what we’re striving for at the moment,” she said.

Menu favorites at the HoneyComb Café include the “danishes and beignets,” Johnson said. These multi-layered and fritter-type pastries can be custom made with dairy or vegan ingredients. 

The HoneyComb Café’s stand-out quality is that it will substitute sugar for honey from honeybee hives that they harvest and maintain. “All of our honey in our products came from our beautiful hives that we’ve [taken care of] for [the last] three years,” Johnson said. 

Unfortunately, due to severe winter exposure, three out of four hives unexpectedly died this season. But Johnson plans to rebuild more honeybee hives this spring that will have more resilience to the ever-evolving Utah climate. “Our hives were so special and cherished,” Johnson said. “We are excited to start a few more this year and work harder to make sure they’re safe for the off season.” 

The HoneyComb Café team harvesting honey from the honeybee hives. Courtesy of the HoneyComb Café website. Photograph by Joe Johnson.

The HoneyComb Café’s delectable goodies have garnered consistent loyalty from its clientele since the beginning. From highlighting chocolate pudding pie to matcha bread on the website, the HoneyComb Café offers a dessert experience that is uniquely their own. “When every customer enjoys my pastries, I hope they are so happy and realize that 3 colonies of Honeybees, which is over 240,000 working bees, are the reason we are living, breathing, and enjoying HoneyComb Cafe’s pastry,” Johnson said.

Johnson reciprocates this loyalty back into her business by consistently considering her mantra: “Always put people over profit.” She hopes to expand enough in the upcoming years to transition HoneyComb Café into a storefront where customers are welcome to stay, relax and enjoy its high-quality pastries and coffee. 

Johnson’s entrepreneurial spirit is driven by the people she loves and supports her — including her HoneyComb Café team. 

“I am dedicated to making sure this business takes off,” said Valerie Evans in an email interview, a baker at the HoneyComb Café and Johnson’s mother. “I’m dedicated to providing goods to our customers, and I’m dedicated to learning everything about vegan eating,” she said.

Evans has been helping Johnson with HoneyComb Café since it opened in October. “It was honestly a dream come true for her to ask me to not only help bake, but to also formulate the menus and try out new recipes,” Evans said. 

The HoneyComb Café’s displayed goodies during a pop-up shop in October 2020. Courtesy of the HoneyComb Café’s Instagram. Photographed by Bailey Johnson.

With this being the first time she’s worked at a locally owned business, she noted the contrast from previous jobs. “It’s so different because I feel like I’m helping achieve a dream while also building customer connections with different kinds of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” Evans said.

Tyce Hawkins, the marketing director and customer relations associate at HoneyComb Café, has also been with the business since Day One. 

Similar to Evans, this is Hawkins first time working at a locally owned business — seeing it as an opportunity he didn’t want to pass up. Hawkins said he enjoys feeling viable and not like a “cog in a system.”

“Every week we improve in a new way and the work that we do helps the café grow and connects us to the community in a more meaningful way,” Hawkins said. 

This support pushes Johnson’s drive to further represent the Black-owned business community in Utah, striving to benefit the Salt Lake City area for the better.

If there’s one thing that Johnson wants her customers to take away from supporting the HoneyComb Café, rather than just an experience filled with tasty treats and a new appreciation for the Beehive State’s resources, is “how amazing Black owned businesses are, and how amazing and life-changing honeybees can be.” 

Versatile Image: helping artists monetize

Story by ERIC JENSEN

Finding a way to monetize art can be hard. It is especially hard for those in the Black community to do so. It can feel like there is nowhere to go to get started as a business. This is why Michelda George created her company Versatile Image.

“I’m just tired with not being able to know where to go,” George said in a Zoom interview.

Versatile Image is an artist collective. It helps artists, specifically Black artists, who want to find ways to make money for their art.

George saw how talented her friends were but also saw that they were struggling financially. So, she created a service to help deal with the back-end business side of art.

A way for artists to make money.

How those two things intersect are simple in George’s mind. The world of business cannot function without the world of creatives.

George said there are many intersections between business and art. Architects, for example, are artists. They draw and design impressive structurers and need to be able to sell them.

George also said mentions the backbone of companies are created by artists. Marketing is done largely by artists.

“You know, you don’t see a logo of a company, and where do you think they get it from? You don’t get it from the mailroom, they get it from an artist,” George said.

Michelda George presenting at a Utah Valley University economics conference. Photo courtesy of Michelda George.

It’s a cooperative ecosystem, George said, an ecosystem that needs both creatives and businesspeople functioning together. Unfortunately, the two often don’t speak the same language. So, George is the middle ground.

Offering a bridge from the corporate business world to the creative dreamlands of talented artists.

Take Chassidy Jade, for example. She is an independent film producer and the creator of Crown Me Royal Labs.

According to Jade, George helps with the business side of her film company. George also helps with the marketing for upcoming films.

“Basically, what they do is assist with the branding and marketing and helping me produce anything,” Jade said in a Zoom interview. “So, all of the paper work, the licensing, making sure everyone gets paid, coming up with different ideas of how we can promote the content. She basically builds everything from scratch on the back end.”

Jade said George handles all the things she doesn’t have time to deal with.

This gives Jade more time to focus on creating projects and developing ideas.

The business is modeled after the SCORE mentoring program. Programs like SCORE aren’t as readily geared toward Black people though, George said. Versatile Image is built to cater toward those needs.

“Black and brown people don’t have that. There’s not a place where you can go where people are really invested in your business, where they’ll kind of take you along the process and teach you as you go. So that way you can be self-sufficient one day. We don’t have anything like that in the Black and brown community,” George said.

Why did the company choose Utah though? George was raised in Ft. Lauderdale and helped her family run their store, Sun Rise Market, there. Coming to Utah was a leap out of the comfort zone.

George said she came here because of the entrepreneurial spirit she and the state share.

“Utah has one of the best economies in the country. Land is cheap here. I knew I wanted a co- working space. … And for it to be my headquarters would just make sense,” George said.

George said she was overshadowed by surface level things in Florida. The market was oversaturated and made it difficult to stand apart.

Utah provided George a place where she could grow her business. She also saw the need for diversity in the market and a lack of competition as added bonuses.

“I just wanted to start afresh, and an economy that I felt would be the best to build a business,” George said.

The advantage Versatile Image has is that it is not rooted to just helping Utah artists despite being in Utah. Salt Lake City is a central western United States city and provides a geographical advantage for businesses to branch out to other western metropolitan areas. George has clients in Florida, New York, Tennessee, the United Kingdom, and more, George said in a follow up email.

George also said she loves Utah because of its natural beauty. She can be found hiking in the mountains in the spring and fall.

George also participates in spoken word poetry in Salt Lake City. Photo courtesy of Michelda George.

She said in Utah her perspective can be different. She can focus more on herself. George said she has more doors opened for her here than in Florida. She can connect more easily with events planners and businesses that need artists.

“The entrepreneur network here is like, unmatched,” George said.

She mentions that most everyone she meets in the business world is interested in connecting with her. Salt Lake City is a tight knit market, and everyone eventually gets to know each other within the business world here. She also says the socio-economic climate is much different than Florida.

In Florida people want to look like they have money, not actually possess it, George said. A true entrepreneur, she is motivated by the bottom line.

That isn’t all she is motivated by though. George believes in the idea of service towards others.

A belief that stems from her parents and their sacrifice to come from Haiti to make a new life for their daughter. A belief built on George’s Christian values. Her heart is set on helping people.

Jade, the filmmaker, said George has always been a motivated person, and always looked for ways to help people.

“That’s what makes it successful, that other people are successful in their businesses. It’s not for us. We’re not here for like the glitz and glory, like we’re really here to serve people in a way that they need for their business,” George said.

Michelda George is selfless, and that is the type of business Versatile Image has become. One built on helping people find ways to live off their dreams.

It is more than a company. It is the idea that if you work hard, help other people, and follow what makes you happy, you can succeed.

That’s what George loves the most about her company, the way it develops people and helps build business owners.

“I love developing things, whether it’s people, whether it’s businesses, whether it’s brands, whether it’s programs or workshops to help people,” George said. “I love the development part of Versatile Image and how it changes. It changes often. It’s not always the same, because every business is different.”

Cooking with love: Sauce Boss Southern Kitchen

Story by ERIC JENSEN

Coming from very little, finding a passion for cooking and turning that passion into a successful business in his restaurant, Julius Thompson is a prime example of the American dream.

Sauce Boss Southern Kitchen located in Draper, at 877 E. 12300 South, started as a food truck in 2016. Thompson opened the restaurant three years later, according to his website.

But Thompson’s love for cooking starts even earlier than that. In between the cold of Chicago and the sizzling summers of Salt Lake City, Thompson was born in Chicago but spent most of his youth moving back and forth between the two cities.

Sauce Boss Southern Kitchen, 877 E. 12300 South. Photo by Eric Jensen.

“Unfortunately, both my parents were addicted to drugs, and I have several cousins whose parents were also addicted to drugs. And just like any decision you make, the consequences don’t just affect you and we were the unfortunate collateral damage of their addiction,” Thompson said in a Zoom interview.

Thompson said that due to his parents’ addiction money went to drugs instead of food, shelter, heat and electricity.

He learned how to survive in the cold dark garages in which he found himself living for weeks and months at a time.

“When you live like that you appreciate any food that comes your way. A lot of the times school lunch was our only meal and we learned to appreciate that,” Thompson said.

He used grit and determination to survive. Those qualities also characterize the food he now serves at his restaurant. Soul food is one of the only cultural originals in the United States. While most of the food within the U.S. was bought here by immigrants, soul food was developed by those born on American soil and based on the culinary traditions of enslaved peoples.

It was a product of being given scraps and having to find ways to make lower quality food palatable.

The food made out of struggle is now being crafted by a man who was raised in struggle.

“It’s food that came from pain and turned into something beautiful,” Thompson said.

That pain exists within Thompson.

“I was alone most of the time. I was disadvantaged and sad, and not much to go for, not much to do as far as nobody gave me time and attention and a creative outlet,” he said.

This is the inflection point in Thompson’s life, the moment that got him started on his cooking journey. He did not allow himself to be dragged down into the darkness. He fought and he looked for allies.

He found those allies in his grandmothers and some of his aunts.

“Growing up it was always a struggle of paying rent, having electricity, hot water and of course with all that food was scarce. So, whenever I stayed with my grandmother or my aunts I was always attracted to the kitchen and all the effort they put in to cooking and serving and making different types of dishes that were near and dear to our family,” Thompson said.

Being in the kitchen bought him happiness. Cooking turned a light bulb on and created Thompson’s soul philosophy on soul food, and his business model, cooking with love.

Julius Thompson, happy in the kitchen. Photo courtesy of Julius Thompson.

“I think basically you’re putting a piece of yourself, a piece of your soul, a piece of your energy, into this food. I truly believe that transfers to the person that’s eating it. They’ll be able to taste all the effort and love and passion you put into it, and in turn it fills them with a bit of happiness, and that carries on to other people they share interactions with, and people share happiness, and it spreads,” Thompson said.

It spreads. Love, happiness, acceptance. If you serve delicious fried chicken, catfish, grits, cornbread, and refreshing sweet tea, they will come and the happiness will spread.

Happiness spreading through food, communion, the warmth of a kitchen, an idea so hopeful and resilient that it cannot possibly be stopped.

Lauren Yancey, the head line cook, sees this philosophy every day, and it is part of the reason she has stayed with Thompson for four years as part of the family at Sauce Boss.

“He’s happiest when he’s serving other people,” Yancey said in a Zoom interview. “He likes going to the tables and talking to people.”

Thompson loves people. He spent hours experimenting with food because of it. At first trying to replicate his grandmother’s fried chicken.

Thompson said at first, he was naïve. He didn’t understand the process of making great food, the step-by-step preparation that can change the outcome of a dish.

From the type of pan used, to the order in which the chicken is breaded, to the fat you use to fry that chicken, every step is a process that can yield different results.

“Being naïve and younger I thought it was just the spices. But as I got older,” Thompson said, “I realized you have to season the chicken before you flour it, season the flour, make sure you fry it at the right tempature, use the right oil and fat to cook it in and all those things play a factor in the overall flavor and finished product.”

In a follow-up text Thompson said the type of oil doesn’t matter as much as the temperature, 350 degrees. He said that keeps the chicken crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside.

Everything at Sauce Boss is made from scratch, Yancey said.

Thompson’s fried chicken, which he spent years mastering. Photo by Eric Jensen,

It took time for Thompson to create this haven of soul food. It took a painful childhood in which Thompson often went hungry. It took years in the kitchen perfecting his skills. Time experimenting trying to replicate his grandmother’s fried chicken recipe, kept a secret by the family. It took hands that were attached to an artist’s mind. It took cooking with love.

Thompson is the American dream. He is a proud father of five working hard to create a life for his children that was better than his growing up. He is a published author and spokesman about issues everyday Americans are facing and a man with endless drive who is in love with what he does.

That love propels his art, soul food, and will keep him going for as long as he possibly can in the kitchen.

The American dream lives in Draper, in the form of a soul food restaurant whose owner has a passion for cooking with love.

Taste of Louisiana food truck brings Southern cooking to Utah

Story by STEPHANIE ROSILES

“We’ve been all around the world. Utah was our last rodeo,” Helena Carter said. 

She met her future husband, Jerrell, in Germany during their service in the U.S. Army. Jerrell served 22 years and Helena served 17. In 2007, their military service led them to Hill Air Force Base in Clearfield, Utah. There, they retired from the military and set their sight on something else: giving Utahns a Taste of Louisiana. “Louisiana’s food is iconic. Utah isn’t as versed in the culture aspect as other parts in the country. We thought they needed to have a taste of Louisiana,” Carter said in a phone interview. Jerrell is from Louisiana. Helena’s grandparents and great grandparents are all from Louisiana as well. 

“While we thought it would be a good idea, there was also something about bringing this food to an underserved market. They don’t have this kind of food in those places,” Carter said in a phone interview. “The introductory period would be more painful if this was somewhere that people were more familiar with the food. There’s cultural gaps. This is a good opportunity to bridge some cultural gaps.” 

She added, “Taking into consideration that Utahns don’t like spicy food, what we’ve done is season our food well, full of flavor. But not the hot flavors. Even though Louisiana food is typically spicy, we kind of made it less spicy with Utah in mind. The only challenges are that people are sometimes intimidated because of that and won’t come and try it.” 

Jerrell and Helena decided on a food truck instead of a brick-and-mortar restaurant due to expenses. “When you start, it’s like what are the chances that you’re going to be successful? There’s a lot of start-up costs. With a food truck, if you do it right, there’s not as much as far as start-up costs. It’s an easier way to build our brand and test the waters,” Carter said.

The Taste of Louisiana truck. Photos attributed to Helena Carter from the Taste of Louisiana website.

With a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in human relations, Helena was skeptical of the idea. However, she gave in and the couple began working on the project in 2016. The truck would officially hit the streets in November 2017. 

Taste of Louisiana officially began as a tent pop-up at events. The couple would bring a canopy tent to different places and serve food at events and festivals. Carter said they organically transitioned from the tent to the food truck. She said the next move would be a walk-up type of drive-through. “Everything has been methodical as far as financing. We didn’t want to just come out and spend a whole bunch of money and do too much too soon,” she said. “We wanted to let things organically evolve. We wanted to build the brand so we’d have people that are following and continue to come.” 

Carter said they’re in the process of trying to see when and where they could do a brick-and-mortar establishment. “Even that, we don’t want it to be too big. We’ve grown accustomed to doing what we do in small spaces. It makes sense, even if we do a brick-and-mortar, to have it be small. We’d do a walk up type drive-through. No dine in. It takes a lot of manpower to manage a restaurant as far as the labor: cleaning, shutting down at night. It’s too big.” 

Taste of Louisiana has been incredibly successful, popping up anywhere from festivals to the University of Utah’s food truck days on campus. Over the last year, however, things changed for the Carters. “A lot of our annual events got cancelled,” Carter said. “Things that we do every year got cancelled — festivals, heritage days, various cities. We have a contract on base (Hill Air Force Base) and we started there in our tent. They’ve been instrumental in our presence.” 

Taste of Lousiana’s seafood gumbo being served in a tent. Photo attributed to Helena Carter from the Taste of Louisiana website.

Some Cajun menu items include shrimp po’ boy sandwiches, fried chicken and fish baskets, seafood gumbo, and shrimp and grits. Carter emphasized that the favorite menu items vary from person to person, saying, “It depends on who you ask. If you ask the food, the food will say ‘Hey, I’m the star of the show!’”

Carter explained the difficulties of moving away from the University of Utah’s campus, where she and her husband parked the truck any day depending on their own schedule. “We suspended service at the U because we weren’t making any money after they moved to virtual learning,” Carter said. “We shifted and now department heads are contacting us and asking if we can bring the food truck or individual plates to a luncheon. It’s ‘Our department is having a meeting at Murray Park. We want you to bring the truck there.’ People are finding different ways to serve their department. We had to switch up the way we do business.” 

Students at the University of Utah greatly enjoyed the food trucks on campus, as it was an alternative to the restaurants in the Union. Mary Cologna, a business student, said in a phone interview, “I loved the food trucks. I felt like I didn’t have to go eat inside and listen to all of the conversations. It was convenient to grab something quick before class or there were also days where I could sit outside on the grass with my friends in warmer weather.” 

Carter also talked about the blessing Taste of Louisiana has had in having the ability to keep their doors open, saying, “A lot of food trucks work seasonally. We have a presence all year round and it’s been a part of our business model from day one. What are people going to be eating? Why not eat Taste of Louisiana because it is available?” 

Lisbeth Patino, a nursing student, said of Taste of Louisiana, “I like that it’s accessible all year. Especially in the winter, if I’m in a rush, it’s convenient to grab something quick and go. It’s great service!”

Daily location information for Taste of Louisiana can be found on its Facebook and Instagram pages, @tasteoflouisiana. 

Carter said, “What we do is on a restaurant scale. The complexity of our menu is restaurant quality. People say, ‘I can’t believe you guys are doing that on the truck!’ This is what makes our operation unique. When it’s flowing, it’s a beautiful day.”

Basketball star-turned-coach; Vanessa McClendon is paving the way for girls basketball in the Pacific Northwest

Story by BRYNNA MAXWELL

Fighter. Go getter. Resilient. Difference maker. These are the words that come to mind when describing Vanessa McClendon. 

Former college athlete-turned-coach McClendon’s life is all about basketball. She was highly recruited in high school and earned a full ride basketball scholarship to the University of Oregon. Her talent would have taken her far professionally, but a career-ending knee injury forced her to retire early. 

Now, McClendon uses her basketball knowledge and love for the game by coaching her travel team organization, Northwest Magic. With teams scattered across Western Washington, McClendon and her husband have built a program that has become a household name in the Pacific Northwest basketball community. 

Vanessa McClendon has had a successful career from playing basketball in college, to now coaching the Northwest Magic. Photo courtesy of Vanessa McClendon.

In the youth basketball world, travel organizations like the Northwest Magic play a critical role. The travel teams not only help young players develop their basketball skills, but they also provide a platform for exposure of these players to college coaches as they chase their dreams of a basketball scholarship. These teams travel the United States to compete in tournaments in the AAU circuit, which is a travel team circuit that takes players and their teams all around the country to play basketball. 

Back in 2008, McClendon had just one scrappy team of teenage girls and an outsized vision for the future. She now has 22 teams — 14 for girls and eight for boys — that compete on a weekly basis around the nation.

University of Utah women’s basketball alumna Megan Huff was on that first AAU team McClendon assembled in 2008. 

“Since I started playing for Magic, Coach Vanessa was always someone I looked up to,” Huff said in an email interview. “When I walked into Magic tryouts, I was shy, uncomfortable in my own body, and insecure about my height and skills. I had no knowledge about basketball or about myself. But, through the whole thing I always knew that Coach Vanessa believed in me and was someone I could always count on.”

That first team McClendon coached produced four big name, Division I college athletes. This included Huff who, after graduating from the University of Utah, got drafted by the New York Liberty in the third round of the 2019 WNBA draft

“Magic was like family to me,” Huff said. “The lessons I learned helped me in college when I was deciding to transfer (from the University of Hawaii to the University of Utah). I knew how to handle the situation with open communication and honesty.”

When asked how McClendon separated her program from other teams in the state of Washington Huff said, “I knew the way things should be when a coach really cared about the individual and not just the organization.”

McClendon’s coaching has greatly impacted many young basketball players, and the teaching does not stop when she leaves the court. Her intentionality to connect with individuals has helped players learn life lessons away from basketball.

Huff said, “My journey was not an easy one but through the whole thing I always knew that Coach Vanessa believed in me and was someone I could always count on. For advice, knowledge, a ride, or a workout I knew I could always count on her and still can even to this day.”

Megan Huff shoots a jumper over a Washington State player in a collegiate basketball game. Photo courtesy of Megan Huff.

McClendon agrees that Northwest Magic is a special and empowering team to be a part of in order to help players get ready for the next level. 

“Our players go to college, and they are impact players right away,” McClendon said. “They can play in a system they’re used to. Some of the stuff that we’ve done, like the way we run practices, they’re used to it already, so I think that differentiates us.”

Current players in the Magic program have been working hard to improve and agree that McClendon has already helped them. 

Sixteen-year-old Tala Mitchell has been a part of the program since she was in the fifth grade. 

“Coach Vanessa brought me out of my comfort zone,” Mitchell said. “In the beginning I wasn’t really a talkative person and was a little shy. She taught me how to speak up and communicate with my team on the court.”

During her interview, she was surrounded and supported by her Northwest Magic teammates, showing how close the bond is that has been formed from her unique basketball experience.

“There are other teams in Washington, but I feel like the people who have been here are very welcoming,” Mitchell said. “When new people come (to join our team), they enjoy us, so they come back and that helps us create bonds that last.”

Mitchell has built lasting memories from her time in the program and has made lifelong friends because of her experience with the Magic. The point guard has already had a strong couple years in high school and only hopes to keep improving. 

Sitting at a table next to a noisy gym for the interview, McClendon looked around at the organized chaos that surrounded her coming from several of her practicing Northwest Magic teams. 

She smiled.

“It is so great to see the full circle of Magic players come through. We have the girls just starting out, to the alumni coming back to show support and it is just so cool,” McClendon said. “I want Magic to continue to develop college-ready players, and then I’d love to see my players that have moved on, just come back and pay it forward.”

Vanessa McClendon established Northwest Magic from the ground up and continues to grow the program. However, there are challenges in this business.

Because McClendon believes every kid should have an opportunity to play, she routinely covers travel expenses for players who cannot afford it. These include hotel costs, plane tickets, food, and tournament fees.

“The biggest challenge right now is money,” McClendon said. “You know, a lot of families can’t afford to do what we do when we have to travel, and so the biggest challenge is trying to fundraise, or get sponsorships for the kids that need to get out there, because we know we have the kids but not everybody can afford to get to these exposure events.”

Setting up fundraisers and collecting donations are the most common ways to raise money, but McClendon is not fazed by the obstacles. 

“Basketball is my passion,” she said. “There is no place I would rather be than in a gym coaching these kids.”

Hip & Humble, keeping business and positivity during a shelter in place

Story by MEG CLASPER

storefront

Hip & Humble creates a safe and comforting atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

During a time with a lot of stress and negativity, it helps to know people are out there sharing hope and positivity. Hip & Humble, a woman-owned boutique, focuses on being a safe place and happy environment for the surrounding community. With two locations, one in Salt Lake City, at 1043 E. 900 South, and the other in Bountiful at 559 W. 2600 South, Hip & Humble is accessible to customers in the Salt Lake Valley. Employees of H & H are positive and are always ready to help.

H & H has spent over two decades embracing perseverance. In June 2019, Salt Lake City made the decision to update 900 South. The construction shut down most of the street and the sidewalk outside and the store was in the middle of it all.

Hip & Humble offers free same-day delivery through the shelter-in-place mandate. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

“For clients it was frustrating and confusing where to drive, park, and even access the store,” said owner Sheridan Mordue in an email interview. With a pile of rocks almost blocking the storefront, it was a task for customers to get to the store. To maintain business, the employees at

The construction of 900 South had its challenges. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

H & H set up curbside pickup for online orders. This allowed customers to still purchase items and have them delivered to their car by an employee.

By the time H & H began to finally regain its original numbers and regular customers, it had to close its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though customers may not be able to browse in person, online shopping is encouraged. Same-day delivery in the Salt Lake metro area has been implemented, and customers love the service. “It is something I see us continuing beyond the stay at home order,” Mordue said.

Not all products offered in stores have been made available on the online store front. If customers are unable to find what they’re looking for, they can call and have their own in-store personal shopper. Employees take calls and connect with shoppers to find what they are looking for in the store.

Dammit Dolls are a good way to relieve stress and anger. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

The employees at H & H are positive in the current hard times. They show up for work ready to offer the best customer service possible. One way they share positivity is through the blog. Available on its website, these posts share tips, showcase new products and tell Hip & Humble’s story.

The most recent post, “10 H&H ways to connect and thrive while ‘sheltering in place,’” offers a “thrive all” guide to staying at home and spotlights useful products. The first product mentioned is a “Dammit Doll.” These dolls are meant for stress relief. The user slams it against the wall or countertop. Some variations come with markers for coloring the doll before destroying it.

These gel crayons are washable for big imaginations. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

The post also suggests keeping little children busy with clean coloring fun. Color-changing gel crayons and “Chunkies” paint sticks are a no-smudge washable way for kids to color.

Other products are suggested to help people relax while working from home. Weighted lavender-scented neck wraps help to relax with the aromatherapy and weight. A 500-piece puzzle, featuring a women’s march, is a therapeutic distraction from everything.

Above all, one of the biggest suggestions made in the post is to support one another. Sending something to a neighbor, friend, or grandmother can give them a nice surprise. H & H supports this idea with the offer of same-day delivery.

This 500-piece puzzle of a women’s march is fun and helps to relieve stress. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

Hip & Humble has a project to look forward to once the “stay at home” mandate is lifted. With renovations to the Salt Lake City International Airport currently happening, Hip & Humble has been chosen to have two locations in the new airport.

The renovations are prompted by the overcapacity of the current accommodations of the airport. Before the upgrades, the Salt Lake City International Airport was built to serve 10 million people but has been projected to have 27 million people a year, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. With the first phase adding an extra 30,781 square feet to the airport and an additional 14,554 square feet in the second phase.

Though the airport has lost 90% in retail sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mordue is still optimistic. “We are expecting a 2 year turn around on the airport economy. Which in retail time can be really short. In the end I am still optimistic and I am so proud of my brand and to represent SLC in the airport.”

It is projected that the retail section of the new airport will open in August 2020 and inventory stocking will happen in early July. Along with the other retail stores in the airport, Hip & Humble will have street pricing. This means the prices you would pay at airport locations will be the same prices as you would pay at the Salt Lake City and Bountiful locations.

By keeping busy and looking forward to the new locations at the airport, Hip & Humble has built its staying power. It keeps focused on the positive and holds contact with its customers in high value. Hip & Humble shares a lot of positivity during hard times.