We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Lenhard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I left an abusive home at the age of 14 with only a suitcase and box of school papers/memorabilia, and moved across the country from California to Connecticut to live with my grandparents. I ended up attending four different high schools in three time zones – always the new kid and never fitting in. I began modeling in my senior year and then “fitting in” didn’t mean much anymore. I learned very early that public opinion is fickle and what matters at the end of the day is that you like what you see in the mirror and can go to sleep with a clear conscience because you are honest, ethical and authentically YOU in every aspect of your life. I think that when you have nothing to lose, your life can go in two directions: You can sink or swim. You quickly learn you can’t pay your bills with other people’s opinions. When I opened Talisman and Cauldron LLC in 2007 (a year before the “Great Recession”) I was told that a California-style mystical shop would never work in Connecticut. That closing my shop for two hours mid-day Monday through Friday so I could run home and get my kids off their buses and start dinner would be the failure of my business. I can’t even begin to list the ridiculous items I was advised to carry (Beanie Babies? Really?) or expensive advertising platforms and product lines which I politely declined. I have always told my kids that success is the best revenge – and 14 years later, my little shop has major market share in most of Fairfield and Westchester counties. In 1998 I took a leap of faith and moved my shop to another town, into an 1844 stone building with an apartment above into which I moved with my two youngest kids following a divorce. Despite the move into a depressed small city my business doubled and then tripled after a two-month mandated COVID shut down. Not only did my patrons follow me here, but I expanded further into the region due to ease of access and word of mouth. In my personal as well as professional life, I have never followed the crowd – and now there IS a crowd as “Goddess” and crystal shops continue to open (and often as not, quickly close) in response to a rapidly expanding new-age spiritual market. Remaining authentic and ethical, as well as entirely accessible to the patrons who literally support my family (and I never forget that) even to the point of having my cell phone number posted on the front door and on the answering machine for after-hours emergencies … something else I was told was “foolhardy” to do, and yet in 14 years of business I can count on one hand the number of times I have been interrupted late at night by someone in crisis. ALL of this has created both brand recognition (we have our own product line) and an intensely loyal following. My patrons know how deeply I care for them, because I don’t just say it – I show it.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
The initial challenge prior to opening a shop is choosing the right location (Remember: Location, Location, Location). I opened my first shop, Talisman, along the main road of a small town next to the town where I was living at the time. Since the shop would feature all things mystical, magical, and natural (and I am a practicing Witch) the town I chose needed to be esoterically “open” to my proposed business. Monroe, Connecticut was already home to Ed and Lorraine Warren (a husband and wife team internationally known as authors on demonology and ghost hunting), a famously haunted graveyard, and local witch/historical celebrity Hannah Cranna ca. 1859. I opened Talisman on April 15, 2007 with a sparsely merchandised shop – as I fully intended to close if the local community did not welcome my business. Quite to the contrary, curious people came to see the shop but returned as the merchandise selection evolved yet remained tuned to the mystical. I engaged “pickers” to locate unusual items for display and sale. Even when other shops’ prices skyrocketed in response to burgeoning public interest in new-age merchandise, I kept Talisman’s line of candles, crystals, incense and oils affordable. Talisman and Cauldron has always offered psychic readings, and I have not raised our prices since opening in 2007. One thing I am deeply proud of is the ethics I have maintained in an industry rife with fraud. We do not accept payment in advance of service, and if you are not happy – you do not pay. In my monthly newsletter, I literally “script” how to gracefully end a reading that does not resonate. The idea of NOT taking money up-front was certainly a departure from the accepted business practice, but as years passed I was delighted to see other psychics and shops change and advertise the same (or a refund policy) in their websites or social media pages. I believe our policy and practices have helped bring a business ethic into the “psychic for hire” realm.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Derby is the smallest city in Connecticut with a rich and unique history. Founded in 1775, it became an industrial city whose factories are being re-worked into loft-style housing, businesses and eateries. The Twisted Vine restaurant, located in a former bank circa 1892, offers dinnertime ghost tours of its haunted premises. Likewise, the Sterling Opera House (now closed to the public pending restoration) was an entertainment mecca for vaudeville legends, internationally renowned figures, and theater premiers from 1889 through 1945 – and as one of the most haunted buildings in the country, it has been featured in several “ghost hunting” television shows. Derby is also home of the “Olde Upton Burial Grounds” one of the oldest public cemeteries in the country. But we are not all spooky stuff here in Derby! Two breweries – Bad Sons and The Hops Company – have opened in recent years and maintain a robust business. The “Dew Drop Inn” is famous for having the best chicken wings in Connecticut; likewise “Roseland Pizza” is acclaimed for its pies. The City of Derby is also home to Osbornedale State Park, Witek Memorial Park, and a beautifully renovated greenway (walking trail) along a former railroad line. The City of Derby is in the midst of gentrification (of sorts) and Talisman and Cauldron has firm plans to remain in what is becoming an economically busy and historically fascinating part of Connecticut.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I dedicate this Shoutout to Goddess Kali-Ma (whose shrine is prominently displayed in my shop). my dear friend China Mayhew who serves as my right hand in almost every aspect of the business including product development, and Talisman and Cauldron’s beloved patrons whose loyalty and support means more than I can ever say.
Facebook: Talisman and Cauldron
Youtube: Laura Lenhard