How a pop-up grocery store owner is giving back to the community during the pandemic
"Business is the way in which we can invoke real change."
Sundays are a day to recharge and reset by hanging with friends, turning off your phone, bathing for hours on end, or doing whatever else works for you. In this column (in conjunction with our Instagram Self-Care Sunday series), we ask editors, experts, influencers, writers, and more what a perfect self-care Sunday means to them, from tending to their mental and physical health to connecting with their community to indulging in personal joys. We want to know why Sundays are important and how people enjoy them, from morning to night.
For Emily Schildt, Sundays have always been precious. Because she’s the owner of a traveling pop-up grocery store called Pop Up Grocer, she works six days a week and keeps these days organized to a T. That’s why she likes to keep her Sundays (aka her “free days”) disorganized and fluid as they can be.
While pre-pandemic life involved going to a neighborhood restaurant and dining solo with a copy of The New York Times, Schildt now utilizes her off-day to mirror this self-care habit from the comfort of her home. “I make my own special breakfast—usually, dairy-laden, uber-fluffy pancakes with lemon—and sit on my porch with the paper,” she says. “The news isn’t as diverse nor balanced as it was, so sometimes, I’ll just play music or put on a podcast that is totally unrelated to what’s happening in the world right now.”
Although Schildt’s Sundays are easy and flexible, there’s one rule she keeps intact: going off the grid. “I think setting a designated time, whether it’s a few hours or a whole day or the entire weekend, to be freed from our phones is super valuable,” she says. This downtime is particularly important now for Schildt, as her schedule is busier than ever. She just launched the Joy Box, a package filled with grocery items that donates 10% of sales to Feeding America, and she’s about to open another Pop Up Grocer location in Austin, Texas. “When my mind isn’t cluttered with the thoughts of others or anxieties caused by headlines or comparison, I find I can make space for creativity,” she says. “Sundays are when new ideas flow, even if that’s just coming to decisions on old ideas. I try not to force it because that kind of defeats the purpose, but it’s what usually happens.”
For this week’s Self-Care Sunday, we spoke to Schildt to learn more about her current weekend routine. Here, in her own words, are her go-to Sunday activities, plus advice for how to support small businesses during the pandemic.
I think I’m fortunate in that prior to this, I had already set up my coping mechanisms for stress. Working for myself, I’ve established a schedule inclusive of working out, seeing my therapist (I love therapy!), getting a good night’s sleep, drinking wine. But, I’ve definitely had my fair share of abnormal ups and downs. I’ve been having panic attacks in the middle of the night, which only used to happen to me once every couple of years. It’s tough because none of my usual remedies are working. And as a control freak, there’s nothing more unnerving than the loss of control.
Go-to best mental health practices
When I’m upset or sad or feeling indecisive, I tend to turn inward. I can really isolate myself. Isolating in a time of isolation is a particularly bad idea. I’m trying to be better about reaching out. So, I phone a friend on Sundays. A good friend in London and I have been having weekly cooking FaceTimes, actually. It’s been so lovely, catching up while learning new skills! We dress up, too. We both wear big puffy sleeves. But it’s also been nice just to have my friends on Zoom as we each do our own individual things, i.e. cooking, beekeeping (yes!), working, Instagram-ing. There’s something really comforting about doing nothing with other people, even if it’s virtually.
Wind-down practices to combat Sunday scaries
I can’t relate to Sunday scaries, to be honest. Is that annoying to say? I love going to work. I think this is one of the benefits of creating the work that you do. So, I actually go to bed excited for Monday. Yeah, that’s definitely annoying to say. It’s my truth!
Sunday workout routine
I’ve been living in Austin since mid-March, as we’re opening a store here this June, and had originally planned for it to be open in April. Since the weather here is so nice, I’ve been going for daily walks or runs around my neighborhood. I’m able to keep a good distance from others. And even though I’m a gym rat who never thought I could enjoy home workouts, I have been delightfully surprised by them. Who knew you could break a sweat from watching someone on a tiny screen? I love Kira Stokes’ Fit app (I have her ball and bands, too) and honestly, I’ve been doing a lot with soup cans and a laundry detergent bottle. They’re great dumbbell and kettlebell substitutes!
I can’t stand clutter so even though it’s really easy to let my house get messy because no one’s going to see it, I’ve been working hard to keep it clean. I hate to waste hours in the day cleaning, so I try to be good about just picking up after myself in real-time. The dishes are a tough one for me. I just can’t seem to keep that pile down!
I’m grateful that giving back is something that has been ingrained in me from my mentors—my dad, my former bosses, and business partners. I am also by nature, someone who likes to take care of others. But most importantly, I really believe it’s my responsibility, as the owner of a business. Each shop we’ve opened has given 5% of its profits to a local charity, and our newly launched boxes give 10% to Feeding America. Like it or not, business is the way in which we can invoke real change. Ours might be small potatoes today, but hopefully, it’s the foundation for something much greater.
I’m a lover of facials. I get multiple a month. Yes, multiple. We all have our things! My favorite kind is a microcurrent facial (shout out to Shamara at SB Skin in N.Y.C. and Molly at Sage Lane in L.A.). And since I can’t get them now, I went ahead and splurged on an at-home device. I got the Nuface Mini. The box says: “Skincare is your nutrition, microcurrent is your exercise.” This is kind of the best way to describe what microcurrent is. I mean, do toning and contouring your face make sense in the context of the world right now? No. But, it makes me feel good.
In New York, I would stroll around downtown for hours. I’d run into someone, which would turn into lunch or errands together. I’d stroll until dark and duck into a bar for a glass of wine, where I’d finish my Spelling Bee (favorite joy!) from The Times. God, I really miss New York.
But here in Austin, I’ve found a lot of joy in a new kind of strolling. I call it my Home Tour. I like taking walks through neighborhoods and admiring the architecture, the paint choices, the landscaping. I snap photos, which have now amounted to a folder on my phone. Future home notes! I never really wanted a house before. Now I think it might be kind of nice. Anyway, this is my no-matter-what personal joy: house spying.
Advice for people who don’t know how to support small businesses right now
If you want to support small businesses, but don’t know where to start, seek out those that you love. DM them on Instagram or send them an email. Ask what would be valuable to them right now. I’ve learned so much from asking our own network of small food businesses. I assumed, at first, they were primarily struggling with sales, but when I asked them, I learned that it was actually the production, the reallocation of marketing dollars, or not knowing how to approach social media content at such a sensitive time. Even just asking will mean a lot to the business.