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The Goods: Jewelry, candles & home decor
The Shop: Often Wander at Noon, 4993 Niagara Ave., Suite 105, Ocean Beach, San Diego
Sarah Larson never intended to become an entrepreneur.
She moved to San Diego in 2004 to study as a performing artist. She graduated from University of California San Diego in 2008 with a degree in dance and set off to follow her passion as best she could.
“I think I always knew that performing wouldn’t support me full-time,” Sarah said. “But I thought that maybe teaching and performing would be an option one day. I was really inspired by my college professors and I wanted to encourage other young women to be creative with their bodies.”
To sustain her artistic life, Sarah accepted a full-time job as an administrative assistant for the marketing department at a credit union. The job paid well and despite the traditional banking environment, her bosses allowed her to be liberal with her schedule so that she could still audition, practice and perform.
“It was the best that I could have ever hoped for right out of college,” Sarah said. “It was great because it was the best of everything.”
Then during a warm-up for a dance presentation at a contemporary, white-walled La Jolla gallery with smooth white floors, her dreams vanished. She still winces and groans as she retells the incident that resulted in tearing her shoulder out of its socket as she misjudged a distance while kicking up into a handstand. The injury still plagues her.
At the time, she needed to take time off from dance to heal and reassess her future plans — mentally and physically, she needed a break.
Fate intervened. Around the same time, she was laid off from her job.
“It was around 2011 and the market crashed, so suddenly I had this big severance check,” Sarah said. “I bought a one-way ticket to Europe.”
She ended up in Berlin and then made her way to Barcelona. In Spain, she spent a month with a group of artists from New York. The interaction awakened her roots of self-expression through handmade crafts.
Originally from a small college town in Northern Minnesota known for six to eight months of frigid weather, Sarah explains that learning a craft wasn’t a hobby. It was survival.
“It’s just what people did,” Larson said. “We never even called it crafting.”
She learned to sew with her grandmother. Her mother taught her to paint and she helped her dad make candles. The city of Bemidji has a proud Native American heritage and population, so some of her friends taught her tribal beading and design.
Often Wander emerged from all of those interests and her overwhelming desire to find and share the spirit, peace, and solace she found through travel.
When Sarah returned to the United States, she took a job as a nanny. That job happened to be with the co-owner of a bohemian lifestyle shop and brand.
This too was fate. She later accepted a job at her employer’s Noon Design Shop in Ocean Beach.
And although the shop sells candles, jewelry, and home goods, the owners Nora Alexander and Maie Vaga didn’t hesitate to encourage Sarah to also sell candles, jewelry, and home goods. That led to Often Wander at Noon, a cooperative venture within a small shared storefront.
“Somehow we work really well together because our products appeal to different audiences, so we attract different customers. It’s not competition; it just works,” Sarah said. “They helped me make this dream a reality and our products support each other. Everything and everyone supports everything else.”
The shop holds at least 70 different scented candles and a myriad of jewelry too plentiful to count, Sarah joked.
Because of the diverse but complementary aesthetics, Sarah said that customers often feel that they are able to find something to suit their mood and personality.
“My customer is really similar to me and they appreciate color and they appreciate travel and consider their home to be their sanctuary,” Sarah explained. “But they also like to funk it up a bit.”
She said she doesn’t like to do what’s “normal or trendy.” Her style also favors vintage elements.
Her love of astrology turned into a unique zodiac-themed candle line that’s been well received by wholesalers and people searching for gifts.
Sarah, a Capricorn, worked on that fragrance first. The earth sign is known for people who are hardworking and fiercely independent, love downtime and are loyal, responsible, caring and independent. For this scent, she blended Sandalwood and Patchouli and did lots of research to create the complex scent that is musky and delicious and speaks to the soul of the Capricorn.
Her other candles in the Apothecs line are more popular with individual customers. This line includes sumptuous scents like Oakmoss and Amber, Lavender and Eucalyptus, and Vetiver, Clove and Cardamom.
Though she gained a lot of inspiration from her travels, she still finds plenty to feed her creative endeavors right here at home. Sarah still dances professionally on occasion with her “loose shoulder” because she loves it and sometimes you just have to move. And her favorite ways to unwind are hiking in Torrey Pines, biking through Balboa Park and exploring Mt. Helix Park in La Mesa. The beaches and boardwalk in Mission and Pacific Beach are her guilty pleasures. “I know it’s super touristy and cheesy, but that can be fun too sometimes.”
Sarah's latest venture has her on the road again. “I’ve been networking hard for a while to get a pop-up shop on Valencia Street right in the mix of things and the stars just aligned,” she said. She’s now hiring staff as she splits her time between Ocean Beach and San Francisco for the next few months.
Her candle line will be the main attraction at her holiday pop-up shop in San Francisco’s artsy, eclectic Mission District. She’s opened a solo shop that will operate through January that also includes a candlemaking studio where she gives all return customers a 50 percent discount on refills of any of her brand’s glass candle containers.