There are plenty of idioms about swimming that can be likened to establishing your own business: Swimming against the tide. Finding your sea legs. Sink or swim. Keep your head above water. And the one that probably resonates the most for the business pioneers featured in the following pages, is the one made famous by the small, but determined and unforgettable, fish Dory, from Finding Nemo: Just keep swimming. Like kicking against the current, these Cape Codders forged on despite exhaustion, disappointment, frustrations and the always inevitable naysayers in order to pursue their business aspirations and create paths in their professions that inspire others to follow. Cape Cod Life Publications freelance writer Valerie Gates had the pleasure of speaking with these inimitable innovators and she brings their stories to life for us. Meet these smart and ambitious creatives and learn about their passions as they continue to make a splash.
Amie Smith, Amie Bakery
Amie Smith grew up in a time that embraced creating a cake from quick and easy recipes made from a box. That box did the job of making a decent birthday cake, but was also full of ingredients that were not quite the healthiest. It wasn’t until she went to the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and tried something made completely from scratch that she found her calling.
Over the past eight years, her desire to introduce customers to food made entirely from scratch became a personal mission for Smith as she created AMIE Bakery. With only simple, but natural ingredients she creates sumptuous treats that keep customers coming back for more.
Take the lowly blueberry muffin. Yes, you could zip into a chain grocery store and quickly pick some up; six to a plastic box, jumbo sized, very sugary and at a price less than a mocha chai latte and call it a day.
But in Smith’s hands, made from only the best ingredients, the lowly blueberry muffin becomes a work of art. Yes, it will cost more, and will be “right-sized” smaller, but it also won’t come with a label of strange ingredients a paragraph long.
Smith is a true mix of a visionary and a perfectionist, and that combination keeps her eating, sleeping and breathing pastry seven days a week.
Being a visionary has Smith going in many directions at the same time; always thinking of new ways to grow her brand, networking with other chefs, contributing to a pastry forum, being on the board of Retail Bakers of America, and oh, also writing a book.
Being a perfectionist means Smith is constantly working on improving her recipes, mixing and remixing creations until they can be made consistently perfect for her customers. She is expanding her offerings, researching new recipes, and advancing her education by traveling to cooking classes. “You’re always thinking ahead to distinguish yourself from what everybody else is doing. And you have to do it better,” she explains.
“There are two camps of pastry chefs,” Smith says, “the ones that are proprietary with their creations and won’t share at all, and those that don’t mind sharing and teaching their work.”
Smith is squarely in the second camp. She loves teaching and passing down her artistry so much that she has built a space in the back of the Main Street bakery for baking and cooking classes that already have 200 students signed up and are booking up quickly.
Smith is also in tune with the needs of the community, now offering to-go dinners and a full bar in addition to the classes at AMIE Academie. With her vision and creativity, we can’t wait to see what Smith cooks up next.
Amy Chesnut, Sonoma Wool Company
Wool has been around for thousands of years and has historically been used as clothing, blankets and shelter. Felted wool came about when people would line their shoes with wool and the process of walking on it would “felt” it.
In the 60s, synthetics, polyesters and nylons arrived on the scene, making textiles easier to clean, cheaper to make and very versatile. Unfortunately, this helped to create the throw-away, fast-fashion mentality consumers have today. This mindset contributes to massive amounts of discarded textiles that are shipped all over the world. Because the use of synthetics has been so prolific, we now also have a problem with microplastics polluting the land and seas. Thirty-five percent of them come from synthetic textiles.
This crisis compelled Amy Chesnut, founder of Sonoma Wool Company in Brewster, to create her “Re-Discover the Wonders of Wool” campaign to re-educate the public about the many uses and magical properties of wool.
“Wool is a superior fiber to any kind of synthetics or plastics,” Chesnut explains in her website video. “It keeps you warm in the winter, cool in the summer, wicks away moisture, mold and mildew resistant, flame retardant, 100% natural, 100% renewable, sustainable and at the end of it’s life, biodegradable!”
Since 2013, Sonoma Wool Company has sourced 100% of its wool from family sheep ranches in the United States. Initially they hand-made their products on a Valley Ford, California ranch, and now work with mills in New England to help keep up with demand. “One of the primary reasons we started Sonoma Wool Company was to support family ranches in the United States,” says Chesnut. “We believe it is supremely important to support domestic agriculturalists and are proud to do our part.”
“Why Wool?” was Sonoma Wool Company’s theme of the Brewster Chamber of Commerce’s Eco Expo event at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History this February. Sonoma Wool Company’s “Check the label” display offered garments of both wool and synthetics so people could feel the difference.
Purchasing wool products can help the environment without sacrificing quality. Investing in something that will last decades and become an heirloom for the next generation disrupts the throw away cycle.
Chesnut believes so much in her wool products that she uses the wool toppers, comforters and pillows in all the guest rooms in her Brewster by The Sea Inn. Her mom lives in Chatham, and so in 2016 Chesnut purchased the inn to be closer to family. It was when her son Sawyer moved to the Cape three years ago that they decided to grow Sonoma Wool Company together on the Cape. Their new retail store at 84 Underpass Road in Brewster, is run by her son and offers customers a way to feel the texture and quality of the wool products and learn that wool is naturally a part of the circular sustainable, renewable economy.
Claudia Del Castillo, Chipie Design
Branding consultant and designer Claudia del Castillo, a lover of vintage style and formerly a concept and trend forecaster for Reebok, brings her respect of tradition, history and her unique ability to envision future trends to her branding work at Chipie Design.
The name Chipie, a childhood nickname given to del Castillo by her father became her signature and lends a quirky, but fresh sense to her company that is mirrored in her work.
Del Castillo is also a food enthusiast. “Food speaks to my heart and is my jam,” so it comes as no surprise that most of her clients own restaurants. She explains, “Most restaurateurs are serial entrepreneurs. When they do one restaurant, they might do another. They are recurring customers for sure,” giving her a steady stable of loyal clients.
She continues, “Cape Cod has many well-established and beloved restaurants/institutions that really end up making up the fabric of its identity. The restaurants end up shaping who they are, but they also need to keep with the times and stay current so they are not replaced by new ones. That is why I specialize in rebranding. Rebranding is sometimes even harder to do than starting a new brand. My approach is to not turn your back on the past but to lean in instead and to really dig into the history of some of these places, into what makes each one of them unique.”
Her personal style gravitates towards the retro touristy ephemera of Olde Cape Cod. From her vintage treasure hunts, she has decorated her home with souvenir items like bar plates, shot glasses, coasters and postcards. These design influences often infuse her work.
Color theory often guides her approach with a new client. She asks, “are you a navy brand or a black brand?” followed by “are you an off-white brand or white brand?” These answers offer her a bit of a road map to follow; “navy and off-white” being a nod to the more traditional nautical Cape Cod style, while “black and white” suggests the clients see themselves as more modern and contemporary.
Today’s restaurants are very much about brand experience, from a complete immersion atmosphere of their space to their merchandise which has become a large part of their revenue stream. Offering varied merchandise is important to stay fresh and reach markets off Cape. At the same time, restaurants must keep up with the ever-changing social media landscape that encourages daily engagement with their fan base.
This is where del Castillo shines. Her branding relationship is long term with most of her clients, and she is constantly evolving the brand to adapt to their needs and the world around, providing a wide set of branding assets that give them room to “merch out” and evolve.
Del Castillo’s focused, personalized approach is well-stated in her website tagline; “The Chipie design process is an intimate and collaborative experience. So get ready. We’re going to be tight ;).”
Cookie Hebert Glatzel, Cook’s Organics
Cookie Hebert Glatzel (they/them) grew up in Wiscasset, Maine, where they started their restaurant career at the tender age of 13. Starting as a dishwasher, Cookie was taken under the chef’s wing, taught to cook, and quickly discovered a love of the family-like community often found in
the restaurant business.
As an adult, they moved to Northampton to work as a chef, but it was on a cold, foggy April weekend trip to Provincetown with friends that Cookie discovered their true home. So in 1998, Cookie made the permanent move to the Cape.
Since the move to Provincetown was early in the season, Cookie quickly found a restaurant job, and also a welcoming, supportive community.
During the off season, Cookie traveled with friends to warm locations, “living beyond our means and having fun in the off-season then working to back it up in Provincetown during the on-season,” remembers Cookie fondly.
Creating Cook’s Organics was not planned. Working 70 hour weeks in busy restaurant kitchens, Cookie would often have leg cramps from standing all the time. Already a troubled sleeper, the lack of a good night’s restorative sleep took its toll on their body and mind.
“Over the course of my life, I suffered from restless sleep and insomnia due to these leg cramps and late night anxiety. One afternoon during an intense googling session, I stumbled upon magnesium by accident when I was looking for a remedy for my intense leg cramps. Through this research, I figured out that transdermal magnesium (magnesium oil) might soothe these symptoms. The excitement at the possibility of sleeping deeply led me to do more research,” they explain on their website, cooksorganics.com.
After some recipe tweaking, Sweet Dreams Magnesium Cream™ was born.
The hand-crafted blend of magnesium, coconut oil, shea butter, beeswax, and aloe worked wonders for Cookie, so they started sharing the cream with friends and co-workers. The cream was a hit, with people sleeping better each night and with many of their knots, leg cramps and body aches disappearing.
The business organically grew from there. Cookie approached a Provincetown store about carrying the cream—the store agreed and quickly sold out. Realizing that they had a viable business, Cookie created professional labels and started Cook’s Organics.
The long pandemic, as terrible as it was for everyone, brought a silver lining to the growing business. Stuck at home, suffering from extreme stress and anxiety, unfortunate insomniacs would desperately google for sleep aids during the midnight hours and stumble across Cookie’s product. “12-3AM is when my website still receives most of the orders,” Cookie explains.
Now, Cookie and their partner Mara live with their two young daughters in North Truro, which also serves as the homebase for Cook’s Organics.
Good chefs have a passion to feed the appetites of their customers. With Cook’s Organics, Cookie found a great way to also feed the body, mind and soul.
Annick Legault & Melissa Cox, Scout Vintage
Walking into the bright, airy space at Scout Vintage is a feast for the senses. The first thing you notice is the wonderfully clean smell of bespoke French soap. Indeed, this soap—Blanc Musc from an old French recipe producer in Marseille—is their best-selling item. Customers come to the counter with a dozen of them in their arms to purchase every year. Your eyes are then drawn to the elegant mix of colors: black iron antiques stand on white-washed pine bureaus covered with soft blue, white and green table linens. Nature items nestle between the custom French tableware and glassware; bird’s nests, planted moss, and natural history pictures complete the tableau. The stiff feel of fine starched linens is counter-balanced by the soft cashmere offerings, like butter in your hands. This has all been carefully curated by Scout Vintage’s owner Melissa Cox. “This is a happy place. There has never been a day that I haven’t loved coming to work,” Cox explains with a smile.
Francophiles have been coming to Scout Vintage to get their Parisian and Provencal fix for some time now. The store’s success has been partially based on the fact that it is not at all your typical Cape Cod shop. No painted signs pointing to the beach or shark t-shirts will be found here. It is a unique oasis of its own style and customers visit often to see what beautiful European luxuries have been added to their ever-changing stock.
Cox loves her yearly buying trips in France, and after years of managing the store, she decided to shift gears and share her knowledge by leading small group tours of antique markets in France. She is launching Scouts de France (scoutsdefrancetours.com) with three trips in April and three in June. Limiting each one-week tour to only four guests allows her to keep these trips intimate and, unsurprisingly, she quickly sold out. With Cox’s newest dreams coming true, she nevertheless fretted closing the doors on the popular Scout Vintage for good. Luckily the save came with Annick Legault, a long time customer who casually asked Cox to let her know if she ever wanted to sell.
French Canadian Legault speaks French and Cox jumped at the chance; “She knew the store, loved the style and was a perfect fit to take over.”
Cox and Legault are currently collaborating on buying trips during the winter downtime in anticipation for the Spring Reveal opening day on Friday, April 7th at 11AM. This popular event has eager customers lined around the block waiting for the doors to open. This summer might also include more of the popular outdoor French food and wine soirees, and the pair plan on having a 10th anniversary celebration in October to formally announce the handover. There is no doubt that the essence of Scout Vintage will continue in Legault’s very capable hands.
Raina Stefani Head Chef, Balena at Crown & Anchor
Raina Stefani, a fireball of energy and ideas, is eager to create a legacy, not only for her forward thinking artistry in the kitchen, but to honor her five-generation family of Portuguese fishermen who worked the sea around her hometown of Provincetown. Her melting pot family story began when her Portuguese and Lithuanian grandmother, Sunny, went for a weekend visit to Provincetown and met her future husband, Herman at a party. Sunny never left and they started a family in the close-knit community. There used to be a town fire bell that when rung, drew everyone in town out because it meant that a fire was risking the home of a family member, a neighbor or a friend, so everyone pitched in.
The annual Blessing of the Fleet has always been a serious affair for Provincetown because fishing for a living is inherently dangerous. She remembers dipping her fingers in the holy water as a child on those days to bless herself as well, just in case. If a fishing boat went missing, the community would rally around the wives and children in support until the boat came home. The loss of a fishing boat affected everyone, and there was a widow’s fund created for fishermen’s wives and the children left behind. The unspoken rule around town was that anytime a woman went to the wharf, the fishermen always gave her some of their fish to feed her family.
Back then, fish and especially lobster were not fancy foods but sustenance for those living off the sea. Unable to join her father and brothers on the dangerous “men’s job” fishing boats, she would join her mother on the wharf to collect the bounty of the sea from which to make their meals. A self-taught chef, Stefani began with a tiny cafe, and then moved on to head chef at Spindler’s working under the tutelage of Barbara Lynch. Barbara’s own self reliance and courage in the kitchen resonated with Stefani’s upbringing, and she found herself a member of a small cohort of professional female chefs at a time before The Food Network created a new generation of foodies.
These days she is just as focused on community and the earth. With the ever rapidly accelerating climate crisis, it has become more important than ever to her to create more of a plant-based menu, and she helped to develop a town-sponsored composting site that takes all her leftover scraps to become fertilizer for the next growing season.
She acknowledges that restaurants are in a unique position to be a driver of change for the earth by introducing more plant-based and small plate entrees that not only appeal to the customer’s palate, but also gives them a sense that they are actively participating in the drive for positive change with their dining choices. With Stefani in charge of the menu, the push for sustainable food is continuing to pick up momentum.
Dr. Paula Monte DVM, CVA, Litchfield Animal Wellness
Dr. Paula Monte DVM, CVA, certified in chiropractic, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and in-home euthanasia, treats her patients/your family members—with a full spectrum of integrated care—and by family members, we mean pets.
From 2013 to 2020 the money spent on family pets in the United States increased over 50%, with families’ disposable and not-so-disposable income going toward pet food, pet beds, pet toys, pet care, pet health and yes, all those cute little sweaters.
A new Forbes Advisor survey found that an overwhelming majority of pet owners (78%) acquired pets during the pandemic.
Dr. Monte, based in Mashpee, is one of the few doctors still making house calls. In fact, house calls are all she does, because she believes in the importance of seeing her patients in their home surroundings. It makes a visit with the doctor much less stressful for patients and their parents alike and she can often make better diagnoses by seeing the animals in their own environment.
“In veterinarian hospitals, most of the focus was on helping animals get better, so euthanasia was sort of an afterthought,” says Dr. Monte. It bothered her that end-of-life for these animals was so stressed and fearful in the hospital setting. She felt that it was important to make the ending more comfortable for the animal, so she began her at-home practice.
During the pandemic, people no longer felt comfortable coming into the hospital to euthanize their pets, so clients started asking her for in-home, end-of-life care. Referrals quickly spread by word of mouth. Other vets often refer their patients to her, and she is as busy as ever.
In-home euthanasia allows the families and their pets to say their goodbyes in a familiar and loving environment. Some families choose to say prayers, play music or sing to their pets as they “cross the rainbow bridge” from the comfort of their own home. After the passing, Dr. Monte steps outside to give the family a moment before collecting their loved one.
Dr. Monte’s office checks in with the family the next day, passes along helpful grief-related resources if needed, and then hand-delivers the ashes, checking in on the family once again.
Many of the owners are grateful for all of Dr. Monte’s thoughtful services and the follow-up check-ins as the testimonials on her website show.
“Dr. Monte is proof that angels are among us. My contact with David Monte, the business manager, revealed supportive and compassionate services were at hand. Dr. Monte was punctual, supportive, and provided everything I could have asked for with regards to the passing of my four-legged companion. In a time when compassion is so limited, you will find a reservoir of it here. I am so grateful,” says one pet parent.
In her spare time, Dr. Monte enjoys spending time with her husband David, two children, and their dog, Sawyer, who is so lucky to have such a compassionate Mom.
Courtney Wittenstein & Shayna Ferullo, Tidal Marketing
Partners Courtney Wittenstein and Shayna Ferullo founded Tidal Marketing in Orleans on April 18th five years ago. The name refers to the natural ebb and flow of the seasonality that many of their business clients navigate each year on the Cape.
Courtney, who was raised in Chatham and has over 15 years of marketing and advertising experience, went to college, traveled for a bit and came home—where she met an oyster farmer and is raising a family here. Shayna’s parents built a home in Brewster when she was eight, allowing her to spend her summers on the Cape. With a background in economics, business development and nonprofit management, Shayna founded Snowy Owl Coffee in Brewster. She earned her marketing expertise through on-the-job experience and being an entrepreneur herself with Snowy Owl Coffee.
Tidal Marketing was launched when Courtney and Shayna realized just how many of their friends were running businesses of their own on the Cape, and needed help with website design, social media management and content creation.
“A lot of our clients are people we know, or are no more than one degree of separation away, so there is already an innate comfort level there. Word of mouth marketing is the biggest way we get new clients,” says Shayna. “It’s really grassroots as far as marketing goes—that’s the benefit of both of us having local networks,” adds Courtney.
Tidal Marketing helps clients find their “voice” in social media with what they call “authentic storytelling.” Businesses these days need to know who they are talking to with their social media, and to develop a “tone” in their communications and messaging. “Cape Cod is Facebook-heavy due to the demographics,” says Courtney, so they use a mix of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and for some clients, LinkedIn.
This means being flexible with different communication styles for different clients. “Anything can change at the drop of a dime with restaurants, so we are in constant communication with them,” explains Courtney. “Organizations are more planned out, they know what is coming up, and there are more events, so we typically talk to those clients once a month.”
Shayna and Courtney appreciate the trust and the creative freedom their clients give them, as well as the community of local creatives with whom they often collaborate on projects. “There is not a lot of competition for the work that we do, but the competition that we do have, we have a very collegial relationship with everyone,” explains Shayna.
Shayna and Courtney want to make sure they give a shout out to marketing manager Meagen Colon and marketing assistant Maddy Kavanagh, who are so passionate and positive about their work—they couldn’t do anything without them. A never-ending supply of coffee, creativity and local contacts seems to be the secret recipe for Tidal Marketing’s success.