Shopkeeper Dispatches: NOTO Botanics

17 Jun 2020

For our third Shopkeeper Dispatches, Gloria Noto – founder of LA skincare beauty brand NOTO Botanics – shares her honest account of opening her store in December, having to close it only a couple of weeks later, and the mixed feelings that come from re-opening it now.

Illustration by Erin Aniker

March 14th
At a certain time every morning, the sun hits my store’s floor to ceiling windows, igniting life in everything that sits within my shop. I’m so in love with how the reflections stamp, if only for a moment, designs on the newly painted walls. Glass bottles dancing with the soft hues of its contents – warm golden yellow, cool soft light greens, jeweled decorations that I am still discovering. Pulling open the door I greet my team, but something feels different in their mood today. Over the last few days there have been talks of a virus that may force us to shut our newly opened doors. I’m not sure where I stand here. What’s real, what’s not? But, I do feel that something serious is coming.

Since this morning, everything has changed. I had my team lock up the shop, I think… it’s all a blur at the moment. I don’t really know what to do next. I feel frozen. I feel numb. Yet, at the same time, I’m not trying to attempt to control the situation. I want to do the right thing but what does this mean for my team, what does this mean for my store, for me?

April 15th
I feel like I am coming out of hiding. Out of the daze, of this restful but blurred day to day. Over the last month, it’s been hard for me to come to terms with shutting our doors. I feel like I was just starting to understand what it felt like to finally see the dream of creating NOTO on a 3D plane. Off of the computer world and into the physical. That’s why I started NOTO – I needed to connect. I needed to feel real. To see faces and talk about what people need and want from us. To help add joy into this wild world. To build upon the type of life some may want to include into their own lives. And just like that, the connection I sought to create for others, turned inward. A connection that developed from something I never thought I’d be faced with. Closing our doors at first was something I couldn’t even deal with accepting. So I pretended like it didn’t even exist for a long time.

Today, however, I feel like I am finally back. I’m remembering why I put all of that work into all of this in the first place, and how good it feels to have a physical space that represents my company in my community. Sometimes you need to pause. Maybe I was doing more than pausing, but avoiding. Who knows. Regardless, I do know it was needed. And I am starting to come out on the other end, inspired and motivated to keep going. The ideas are flowing and I am rethinking what building community can look like. If anything, this has been a great time to see how we can do things differently, to change, grow, evolve, and recenter.

May 1st
Today is my first day going to the corner market in a long time. This might actually be my first outing in two months. Cookbook has always been one of my favorite places to go. They stock specialty goods from local farmers and artisans from around the world. It’s important to me to support this type of business. It was strange in some ways, of course, but mostly felt awesome. All these new protocols remind me of some sci-fi future. I had to wait outside in a line with a mask on. They are only allowing two people to shop at a time. And once getting in, I had to talk to staff through a face covering, exchanging our best “smize”.

But, I am talking to others, asking and being asked how I am doing. I’m in my neighborhood supporting my local businesses and I am so excited to take home what I bought and enjoy It. This last week, I have been asking myself: how do I continue to build on the dream of my community-based store, when I am not ever sure what community looks like right now? Maybe being a community space right now means just being able to be open and to possibly be the one thing that my customer looks forward to doing in their week. Possibly being one of the very few exchanges in general that they have that week or month even. Maybe just being here and able to support my community in the most simple way by being open is what I need to do.

May 20th
I unlocked the front window barrier and pulled open the gate. Opened the door, and disarmed the alarm system. The last time I did this feels like yesterday, muscle memory doing its job. Truly it’s actually been months since I’ve done this. There’s dust on the shelving and a newly housed spider in the corner. But it feels so good to be here. The light in the window is shining through, just like it always does as I take a deep breath in and exhale. Now more than ever, I am remembering why I decided to open a shop. To help be a part of a community that I would want to live in. To be part of the inspiring world of makers that do things a bit more slowly, a bit more intentional, and to be a support of those who feel connected to human interaction.

I decided last week that we will open in June. I have no idea what will evolve into being, what new rules might come about, or which ones might lift. I am okay with rolling with the punches. Sure, I don’t expect a line outside of our door, but I am excited for you to look in my window as you jog by, drive by, or whatever you are doing out there. To see that we are open, and we are here for you. Be it as simple as getting you your skincare fix. But really, out of all of this, the most exciting thing for me – right now – in this moment, is to turn the lights back on.