Laughing Gull Chocolates, the brick and mortar shop, opened on February 3. At the time, my daughter was six and half months old.
It’s been just over nine months since we opened and it feels like a lifetime with all that I’ve learned about running a business. The six and a half months before that? Yet another lifetime. Before Alex was born, I knew parenthood would be both rewarding and challenging, but the heights of the highs and the depths of the lows? They came as a shock. I won’t go into details about how my heart melted the first time she smiled at me, how I thought my tears might never stop flowing when she didn’t nap for days, or when she cried endlessly until she spit up – nursed some more, and then cried again until she spit up, repeating the cycle. There were days when she nursed all day, barely giving me a break to get a drink of water, nevermind go to the bathroom. I’ll try to restrain myself from describing how perfectly delicious and sweet her first giggle was. Her laughter, as she looks up at me with her bright, loving eyes, has become my favorite sound. I cherish it every time I hear it, wishing I could bottle it up. Almost fifteen months later, there are still highs, and there are lows. I’m still learning every day; the only thing I know for certain – the most important thing that I have learned in these past fifteen months – is that it takes a village.
When I first decided to open a brick and mortar shop, my husband casually mentioned to me that he thought we might make some friends through Laughing Gull Chocolates.
“Sure,” I responded as I dipped the next truffle into the chocolate. But I didn’t really think so. In retrospect, I don’t know why. It certainly wasn’t why I started the business. Making friends wasn’t why I had a baby either.
And yet I remember the first time I realized what had happened as Laughing Gull grew. On a Saturday in April, Lorraine from the neighborhood stopped in. She said hi to Andy and Alex, and chatted with me as I prepared her usual: a salted caramel hot chocolate. In the room next door, there was a group of people hanging out around our newly expanded play area. Parents, babies, friends. I went back and forth from the kitchen to the customer area, making drinks, giving my baby a kiss, waving or making a silly face at a friend’s little one. I had one order for an Irish Cream hot chocolate; another for a mocha (extra hot, I knew) and I walked into the side room to hand Andrea and Patrick their drinks. Before I went back into the kitchen, I sat on the floor next to my daughter. She quickly army crawled her way to my lap, before setting her sights on a toy that looked more entertaining. All around me, I could hear conversations: the newest skill the little ones learned; plans for a barbecue in the spring (when would it arrive?), the economics of the trucking industry, the newest update on local politics…I realized, as I listened, and smiled at my baby smiling at me, that we had a village as new parents, and that Laughing Gull Chocolates fostered that village.
Almost six months later, Laughing Gull Chocolates is growing, as is our village. I now have two incredible business partners, whose strength, passion and support in our business is matched equally in our friendship. We have “regulars,” who ask about our husbands, and peek into the playspace to say hi to our babies. New customers are frequently greeted by waving friendly toddlers: “hi,” they say, in their small, proud voices, inevitably drawing a smile.
On the hard days, the days when our little ones didn’t sleep well the night before, or are teething, or frustrated as they figure out one more new skill, customers enter to a cacophony of cries, and often a tired mom and business owner. Being a parent is tough. Raising a child while working has unique challenges that I am only able to overcome with my village. My village makes me a better mom, a better community member, a better business owner and a better person. This village that we have created is helping to teach my daughter – and me and my husband – patience, determination, empathy and love. Community members, neighbors, friends that come into Laughing Gull Chocolates to say “hi”, or for a truffle, cheese plate, or hot chocolate, help to foster that village- and it has made all the difference.