Welcome to another edition of “People Pulse.” Always aiming to bring you interesting folks doing even more interesting things in the Orlando and Central Florida area, you’re really going to enjoy this one. Sometimes you randomly cross paths (or is it really random?) with someone and that encounter just sticks. Quite some time ago that encounter for us was Sarah Johnson-Markve of Good Crowd. The encounter was actually at The Dinner Party Project but we were already familiar with Good Crowd and were thrilled to connect with its originator. If you’ve never been to this adorable, quaint, Central Florida-lovin’ retail store located in the heart of College Park you gotta check it out (more on that later). So let’s get to know Sarah….
Q. What brought you to Orlando, and how long have you lived here?
A. I am originally from Minneapolis but we moved here for my husband’s job in 2009. We moved around a bit before moving here, so we didn’t go straight from snow to sun. We still get our winter fix by visiting family in Minnesota. At first I wasn’t sure how long we’d stay, and I said we’d give it 3-5 years max, but we met friends who became family to us here and here we are 12 years later. Home.
Q. What’s one of your favorite things about living in Central Florida?
A. Besides not having to shovel snow, we love the proximity to both coasts and take full advantage of the warmer weather. We also love watching Central Florida–and Orlando, in particular–evolve. It has changed so much from when we first moved here and are thrilled to live in a city that is embracing the arts on all levels. I also love that Orlando’s residents are really intentional about supporting small businesses throughout the city.
Q. Your store Good Crowd in the neighborhood of College Park is amazing (we’re obsessed with it, actually)! It really is the epitome of the celebration of small business. How did the concept begin, and what ultimately led to landing on its specific location?
A. I have always worked in a creative field, but I’m also very left-brained. I’ve worked in retail, I’ve been a meetings + event planner, I worked a long time in technology and I also have a freelance graphic design business. However, none of those careers were quite right. It wasn’t until I actually told my close friends a few years ago about my dream of opening a modern gift shop, that I actually believed I could do it. Thankfully, those friends held me accountable along the way to make sure I was taking steps towards this dream. I had other friends who are business owners that held my hand throughout the entire process – literally from permitting to opening and everything in between. My shop name was important to me, too.
In terms of location, I knew my shop had to be here, right in my home neighborhood of College Park. When I heard that Alchemy Hair Salon had outgrown their space and was soon moving, I thought a stand alone building like theirs was perfect, so I jumped on it. Plus, I inherited their amazing concrete swirly floors and great energy out of the deal!
I needed a name that reflected the feeling of the shop I wanted to create. A place where everything and everyone is welcome. So, I landed on Good Crowd – which to me means the community, my customers, and the makers I carry in the shop. We’re all part of the good crowd.
Q. What’s one of your favorite things about being a small business owner in Central Florida?
A. I’ll never get tired of this question because honestly it’s the thing that has surprised me the most and makes me the happiest. One of my favorite things about being a small business owner is meeting so many people. SO many awesome people. I love getting to know customers, I love meeting local makers and trading ideas, I love getting to know other shop owners and sharing advice, and I love how much this community has supported us since we opened.
Q. What do you enjoy most about being in the heart of College Park?
A. My shop neighbors. From the awesome guys at the Guitar store on my right to Form Function Form on my left, I’m in great company.
Q. The past couple of months have been critical for businesses in general, but what would you say has been the most challenging part specifically for you and Good Crowd? And how have you managed to stay afloat?
A. It’s an understatement to say it’s been tough. But honestly, my customers rallied around us. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they are shopping here because they want to make sure Good Crowd makes it. When we were mandated closed last spring, I had customers sending gift boxes and gifts all over the country to friends who had birthday trips or weddings cancelled. Others sent thank you gifts to front-line workers. How? Everything was done remotely through social media, texts and emails. It was super time-consuming, but there was no other option as we didn’t have a website yet. In addition, we would drive around and deliver locally to people who were quarantining at home and offered curbside pickups at all hours just to stay afloat. My customers and followers did their part and helped us get through those months until the website was live and we were back open. We STILL are so grateful for every purchase, every positive review, every referral and every “like”, because it has allowed us to survive as a small business.
I’ve also managed to stay afloat with the help of my family. From my immediate family, parents and friends, everyone has pitched in in some way. Both sisters have flown in from other states to help out when needed! My son Ellis (12) is a rock star gift box maker and trash collector. My daughter Mae (8) is at the shop every week “testing out” all the new kids books. My husband pretty much does anything else I need from plants to speakers to paint. Although I’m the sole owner, it has been a huge group effort steering this ship!
Q. Orlando has “grown up” so much in just a short time. What has been something you’re most surprised about?
A. The creativity. Creativity in restaurants. In performance art. In small makers doing amazing things. In developing neighborhoods. I just love it all.
Q. Do you have any “best kept” secrets for things to do in and around Orlando and the Central Florida area?
A. Hands down best: Trapeze class at Orlando Circus School.
Q. What’s one thing you’re always sure to do or share with someone who’s visiting from out of town?
A. Get them to see the REAL Orlando. To me that means, walking around Lake Eola, Gideon’s Bakehouse (pre-Disney Springs!), pancakes at The Old Spanish Sugar Mill, and you guessed it, trapeze at Orlando Circus School.
Q. OK – one of our favorite questions: What are your go-to and just-can’t-live-without food places in town?
A. I have so many…and really specific menu items as well. I like food. What can I say.
- Roti Canai and 5-Spice Tofu from Mamak
- Bistro Fries and Mussels at Rusteak
- Tempeh Chili from Infusion Tea
- Sour Orange Pie from Hungry Pants
- Dal Makhani from Tamarind
Q. What are some of your favorite places in Orlando to be inspired, or just to be motivated?
A. Very simple: Taking a walk around Lake Adair listening to the podcast “How I Build This.” The inspiration I get from those famous makers while taking in the lake, the birds, the fresh air. I always get back home recharged with a million ideas.
Q. What is one thing you personally hope to achieve during the remainder of 2021?
A. For a professional goal, I have made a commitment to the 15% Pledge. That is an initiative which encourages retailers big and small to commit to dedicating 15% of their vendors/makers to Black-owned businesses. For a personal goal, I want to get back to traveling more. I get most inspired when I visit new cities (and countries, but COVID has put a bit of a damper on that). Whether it’s popping into restaurants, unique shops, or simply meeting new people, I always come back with creativity overload and I love it.
What did you think? Enjoy getting to know Sarah? If you know someone who is “doing their thing” in the Central Florida area and might be a great consideration for an upcoming feature, drop a note telling us who (that’s how we got to know Julie of Perspire Sauna Studio) and why using the following form: