A labor of love that stemmed from years of recycling, composting, carrying reusable bags and championing a cleaner environment, Diana Duren and her family sought to open SAGE Refill Market — a shop that would help the community move toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle. “As a planet, we can’t ‘recycle’ our way out of this problem,” she says, also noting that shopping for more sustainable products can feel overwhelming and frustrating for consumers. Ultimately, that’s what compelled her to open their family-run refill shop in 12South.
Enter the pandemic, which immediately threw a wrench in the plan. Without the ability to get customers into the store to refill containers, the foundation of their business was on shaky ground. Not to mention, COVID caused a countrywide shortage of pumps, spray nozzles and other necessary containers, so they had to switch gears. “Opening a business is risky by itself, but opening during a pandemic felt downright crazy,” says Diana. With that said, many of their products are considered essential, so they were allowed to open while most stores around them were forced to remain closed. Canceling their opening day celebration and pivoting their product lineup, the Duren family refocused their opening inventory to fit current needs. Surprisingly, they ended up opening earlier than expected. “We had always anticipated a mid-May opening,” Diana explains, “but with the pandemic, we actually pushed ourselves to open a little sooner. By focusing first on curbside pickup and some local delivery, we were able to work on renovations inside of the store simultaneously and not worry if it was completely finished.”