Sharon Smith sits in The Market and Spa on 41st in Anthem. The shop’s owner is surrounded by 80 local products ranging from Kettle Heroes popcorn and Dragon Scents bath products to AZ Lemonade Stand.
Since the store opened in August, Smith and her husband, Manny Gonzales, have introduced the North Valley to hundreds of small businesses.
“We started with one product, and then a couple of them, and then we just fell into this farmers market community,” Smith said. “It was just referral after referral.
“It was just word of mouth referrals. Don’t get me wrong, though. A lot of it was Instagram stalking and hounding. Once we got going, a lot of people ask to put their stuff in here.”
The Market and Spa on 41st is bursting with creative items. There’s honey infused with a variety of flavors, CBD products for pets, Shannon’s Granola and gluten-free goodies. Food with allergens are labeled appropriately.
“We opened in the middle of a pandemic,” Smith said. “Basically, this was our quarantine project. During the shutdowns, there were no farmers markets going on. There were no community gatherings. Everybody was trying to hustle their stuff online.”
Smith came from a dental background, while Gonzales worked in the restaurant industry. The Anthem couple planned to use the space to expand their spa but thought a market would go over well. Recently, they added fresh shrimp, halibut and beef.
“Honestly, the idea just kind of snowballed,” she said. “We were going to do a little coffee bar with food and snacks. Once we reached out to our snack vendors, it turned into this market of small businesses.
“It wasn’t in the plan, but it was in somebody’s plan.”
The couple plans to expand beyond the market and spa. Gonzales is preparing to open a green funeral home in Black Canyon City within four months.
“My husband is a mortician,” Smith said. “He’s a jack of all trades. He laid the floor this morning. He builds tables. He builds dressers. He can do it all.
“The green funeral home is better for the environment. The chemicals they use can be really harmful. He has green burial chemicals that are safer. It’ll be a new concept to Arizona. He’s really passionate about it.”
The backstory reflects the battles that accompany the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During COVID, people have been dying, unfortunately, every day,” she said. “Knowing that my husband is going to be the one taking care of them is comforting. I want to refer everybody to them. I personally had a friend who died recently. I wish he was taking care of them.”
Smith and Gonzales strive to find problems and solve them — like having a funeral home up this way.
“Looking on Facebook, people were always asking for a Trader Joe’s or Sprouts or Whole Foods,” Smith said. “So, we thought, ‘Why not open our own mom and pop?’ And instead of carrying these big names, we’ll carry better products from small businesses.
“They get excited when they make a sale. This is going to help her daughter go to school. They’re local residents, and a sale for them goes to their kids.”
The market’s adjacent spa boasts an acupuncturist, Reiki, crystals, a nail technician, a behavioral therapist and organic facials. Smith called it calming with infrared saunas, detox, wraps and natural products.
“For entrepreneurs, we tried to create a space that was reasonable,” she said. “I do airbrush tans and when I moved here from Ventura, I was looking to start with a brand-new clientele in a whole new state. Paying over $1,000 a month for a studio was insane.
“I want to make it affordable for somebody who just graduated or somebody just starting. You need to build your clientele.”