Retail Therapy: Owner of Waterford-based The Corner Store talks shop

In the wake of the global pandemic, Sarah Holway is approaching business with a laissez-faire attitude that puts community first.

woman in kitchen with brick wall behind her
Photo courtesy of Sarah Holway

In early March, Sarah Holway had a plan for the future of Waterford-based The Corner Store. Come April, she was going to add homemade pastries and locally brewed coffee to the slew of items available at the space, which serves as a gathering place for the local community, offering a rotating selection of vintage clothes, home goods, furniture and more. 

The coronavirus put a wrench in those plans, but it hasn’t stopped Holway—who operates the shop on weekends, in addition to her full-time job in the District—from looking forward. Thanks to her positive attitude and loyalty to the residents of Waterford, Holway continues to go in and out of the shop regularly, taking shots of for-sale products to add to social media and putting together baskets of fresh food for nearby neighbors. 

From the evolution of The Corner Store to the importance of self-sufficiency, here, Holway shares her take on what really matters in the midst of the coronavirus. 

two women in the corner store
Photo courtesy of The Corner Store
How has your business strategy changed over the course of the past month or so? 

I think I was actually well prepared for something like this because I never had much of a business strategy to begin with! The shop has just evolved over time as a marriage between my love for scouring the world for treasures and a desire to create a space that feels good, where people can gather. Like most people, I quickly created an online shop which I’m slowly adding to, but mainly I thought about how the shop would be most useful to the community. Lamps and rugs are lovely, but in time when we find ourselves contemplating what we actually need in life, shopping for things you probably already have enough of seems like a waste of time.

The reason I moved from the city to Waterford was really to be closer to the source of my food—being able to grow it myself and get it from Moutoux Orchard, which offers a whole-diet, year-round CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share. Meat, eggs, dairy, veggies, fruits, all from the same farm. And as my husband thought about how we were going to prepare for what’s coming, we realized how lucky we were to have this level of food security.

I understand you recently launched the Farm Share Collective, which makes fresh food more accessible for local residents. Can you tell me more about that? 

In thinking about what The Corner Store could do for the community, I basically just put some pieces together … Our friends are mostly farmers; The Waterford Citizens Association was working on emergency food plans and asked me if I could help identify resources; I appreciate not having to go to the grocery store very much because I get meat, eggs, dairy, veggies, flowers and fruit from one farm, or grow it myself. So, I started the Farm Share Collective. It’s a collection of local farms producing all of these things and people can join whichever ones they want, but pick everything up weekly on Tuesday afternoons on the porch off The Corner Store. You can also add weekly orders of organic local grains—rice, oats and wheat berries, as well as yeast and bread flour that we carry at the shop. I recently added an organic bread share too. (I’m a novice baker.) 

The second thing I did was put together a Locavore Kitchen Basket, which is a sampling of all the farm offerings and the local grains, enough to feed two people each week, which is available for monthly payment. Some farms need people to pay for the whole season upfront and that doesn’t work for everyone, so I wanted to create an option that made this kind of thing more accessible.

As a small business owner, what’s been the hardest part of this for you emotionally? 

I think the hardest part is not being able to scour estate sales and antique stores for treasures! But seriously, I think the community shares my excitement about creating a gathering space where people can meet for coffee and a snack and a chat with a neighbor, and having expanded hours into the weekdays! We have all been ready for that for a while, so putting it on hold has been tough, but I’m looking forward to being resourceful and creative, and finding safe ways to support this need in the coming months. 

What has been keeping you hopeful right now?

What I love is the collective realizing (that I am noticing) of what really matters in life. And seeing so many people moving back toward self-sufficiency, like gardening and baking bread.

What else would you like readers to know?

For those people who aren’t baking their own bread, I offer a monthly order that gives you a loaf a week on Tuesdays. And we’ll reopen—and add drinks and food—as soon as it feels right. I just signed a two-year lease so I’m not going anywhere.

To learn more about how local business owners are adapting to the coronavirus, subscribe to one of our weekly newsletters. 

Loading cart ...