I’ve seen a lot of memes going around to the effect of, “the jump from 2019 to 2024 is really jarring.” Like all memes, the truth is in the joke, and it does feel jarring that 4 years have slipped by so suddenly in the haze of the pandemic years.
In 2019 I went to Mexico City for the first time. In addition to being a gastronomic and cultural wonder, I was also blown away by something unexpected: the retail spaces and their overall concepts and attitudes around retail. Seamlessly blending art, experiences, products, color, air, and design. Every retail space I went into on that trip expanded my idea of what retail could be, and opened up new potential for something I’d never really considered or wanted for Smoke Perfume. For the first time ever, ideas blossomed in my mind, and I began to think about if Smoke had a retail space, what magic it could be.
Shortly after I returned home to New Orleans, I found out a space was opening up inside The Good Shop. It felt kismet, and I jumped on the opportunity.
I didn’t know what the store would look like, but I knew it would have lavender floors, and lots of plants in the terra cotta pots I saw everywhere in CDMX, but had never seen before: chic cylindrical pots of various sizes. I got to work right away, enlisting the talent of Ashley O’Neill to help with the design. Ashley jumped on it, and soon our shared enthusiasm morphed into manic emails, Pinterest boards, and endless links to light fixtures, shelving, concepts, pedestals, and more!
I spent my New Year's Eve of 2019 rolling over into 2020 in New Mexico at a breathwork retreat. One of the activities of the weekend was spent building a fire of aspen logs. We tossed sage and other herbs into the fire, encouraged to offer prayers, intentions, and manifestations for the year ahead as we stoked the fire. Later, the red hot coals would be raked into a line in the snow, and we’d all take turns running barefoot across them, supported by the group as we screamed our intention into the starry night sky–primal and alive. The intentions whispered fervently into the fire ranged from earnest, to personal, and to the run-of-the-mill New Year’s resolution manifestation jargon we’ve all been guilty of perpetrating. I thought of my store, tossed in a handful of sage and rose petals, and whispered, “may my store be a great success!” How hopeful and naive we all were going into 2020.
In early 2020, Smoke Perfume was at the top of its game. I had been building the brand since its inception in a steady economy at the height of the social media and green beauty boom. Right place, right time. The store was another step towards the growth I had worked so hard for. I had dreams for this retail space: workshops, visiting artists, community space, and more. The opening party was a triumph. I felt seen and celebrated by my community, friends, and family like never before. After the opening, we slipped right into carnival season and the most revelatory time in New Orleans--where the occasional covid-themed costume straggled by on the streets and we laughed at this far-away current event that we were sure would blow over soon.
Less than a month after opening my store, lockdown reached us, and we all know how that went. The initial 2 weeks stretched into what it stretched into and has stretched into in the tumultuous 4 years since. Even before Covid, I viewed my store as a temporary pop-up space. I told myself I’d give it 3-5 years and reassess. My intuition may not alway make sense in the moment, but it’s usually pretty spot on. Here we are at year 4, and our showroom has reached its natural conclusion.
Somewhere between the ongoing Covid surges, the pivoting every small business has had to do to survive the last 4 years, and my own passions and values changing, the showroom lost a bit of its magic. It became less of the original concept, and more about sales, the bottom line, navigating the shop's collective dynamic, managing employees, and wholesale. Burn out set in, and I questioned my business decisions. The economy faltered. My creative drive took a back seat to ensure the survival of my business, and at the same time I took steps in my personal life to realize my dream of starting a family with my partner.
I realize the above is just a description of the normal day-to-day minutia of running a business. So, I suppose nothing really has changed with the showroom. One could argue that it's me who has changed. And that may be true. In the last 4 years, my other service-based healing arts business has also flourished, and reminded me that businesses can look very different than what business school teaches us. The hardest part of Smoke Perfume has always been morphing my creative self into the nuts and bolts of running a business, and all that entails. I've long felt the friction: do I keep leaning into the magic and creativity, or take the necessary steps to run the business as a business "should" be run?
As I stand on the brink of motherhood after one of the most challenging periods of my life, the answer feels more clear. I only want to move in ways that honor my body, intuition, self-trust, and creativity. I recognize that it is a privilege to be able to do so. The desire to make space for the massive change coming means letting go of anything that feels burdensome or doesn’t feed me creatively. As bittersweet as it is to admit, that is what the showroom has become to me, and that’s okay.
I've always honored moments of growth, and I have always relished the feeling of forward movement. As challenging as change can be, it's also a natural part of life. Endings are not always finite or bad. While I have no expectations for this next chapter, I know releasing the showroom and allowing myself to let go of unnecessary stress and obligation is a key part of stepping into this next phase of my life with presence and gratitude. Smoke Perfume has always been deeply personal to me and my life. I have always moved with intention when it comes to Smoke, and this closure feels as intentional as everything that went into creating the showroom to begin with, even as we live in a society that does not necessarily celebrate the intentional scaling back of a business.
I will admit, in moments my ego grieves this loss. Will Smoke ever have another retail space? Am I closing the door on something I’ll never be able to open again? I’m really not sure. Again, my intuition doesn’t always make sense in the moment, but it’s always spot on, and if there’s one thing I am practicing these days, it’s trusting myself fully, and this decision feels right in every cell of my body. I am excited to see what blossoms and awakens in me as I free up my energy for more creative and life-affirming pursuits, focus on the personal work of birthing and raising a child, while maintaining Smoke Perfume as an online and wholesale brand.
Thank you to everyone who ever visited the showroom! It was a great success, in spite of the set backs of the last 4 years. I am so proud of everything I accomplished. I am so proud to have been the only natural perfume showroom in New Orleans. I enjoyed carrying the brands I carried, and offering such high-quality self-care products. Here’s to the next phase!