We often assign trends to a particular moment in time. Take the 1980s, for example. We often identify that decade with leg warmers, big hair and synth-pop.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen trends rush in and out of our collective hive-mind at the speed of light. We all made sourdough bread boules and sang the same sea shanty. But it’s rare for most of us to take one of those trends and start making a living out of it.
Holly Hall, 35, did just that by starting her business Ghee Well out of her rented kitchen at Redwood Acres.
Ghee is a type of clarified butter originally created to prevent butter from spoiling in warm weather. It does not require refrigeration and can be kept at room temperature for several weeks or months in an airtight container. It is made by simmering butter to the point that its water and milk solids have been removed.
It sounds like a relatively easy thing to make, but one jar of the stuff will sell anywhere between $8 and $40. You can grab a 12 ounce jar of ghee for $27 from Hall’s websiteor at some of our local stores.
A Fresno native, Hall is a boxing instructor at Bayside Barbell, a personal trainer and a ghee maker. Hall came to Humboldt in 2008 to earn a degree in kinesiology and has hustled every way she could.
“I was trying to teach exercise classes. Even trail running, even though I hate to run,” Hall said. “I worked nearly full time while I was a student.”
Leading up to graduation she worked seven days a week; three days as an intern for Arcata Recreation and four days a week at Pacific Paradise. After graduation she began her search for a job with growth, and in the meantime she took an extended housesitting gig.
“It was me and three guys in this double-wide trailer. I was mostly the house mom to do the things that needed to be done,” Hall said. “And also ensure that the three dogs and a dozen chickens were well taken care of.”
Hall emphasizes that she was vegan at the time and her excessive exercise led to her to detriment. She began experiencing heart palpitations and panic attacks, and occasionally passed out. Notably, she experienced a seizure going up a flight of stairs.
While on the house-sitting gig, she realized that the chickens were laying eggs and no one was eating them. Beginning to eat those eggs was the gateway to ghee. After a while she started working at Wildberries, where she met her now-husband of hers. He was on a paleo-ish diet and made a treat with ghee for both of them.
“He would buy this stuff from Ancient Organics and put a little bit of it in his coffee,” Hall said. “I tried it and it was amazing. And I was like: We gotta order more.”
They ordered it for a while, but because ghee can be expensive she thought she could try making it instead. Quickly, one batch turned into many and she began experimenting with adding flavors. While making it at home, each batch was made for her own personal stash of hers, or she would give it out as a gift to her circle of friends of hers.
Before long, her ghee was in more and more peoples’ coffees and they began to ask if she would consider making it regularly for them to buy. At this point both Holly and her husband de ella went looking for new jobs and her husband de ella was laid off.
Hall began to look into operating out of a home kitchen, but as it turns out she could not. Even though ghee is shelf-stable, the problem is that butter is a perishable product.
“I wouldn’t want to do it at home anyway. I buy 40 pound blocks of butter. How am I gonna store that? Especially when we rent in Arcata,” said Hall.
Holly got injured and her day job became difficult.
Then in between late 2017 and early 2018, some friends told Hall that a kitchen at Redwood Acres was opening up and she should get it. They convinced her that if she did not rent out the kitchen immediately, someone else would.
So she contacted the folks at Redwood Acres, signed the lease and began to buy the equipment she needed.
“I filled it with racks, tables, burners and fridge,” Hall said. “It was just a room with a sink when I first got it.”
Right as she started ramping up the start of Ghee Well, she began working full time at a local cheese factory, all while training with clients part-time and teaching jiu-jitsu.
“The kitchen was so affordable and I pushed it back to do everything else. I was working about 60 hours a week,” Hall said.
Then in 2020, Hall lost her job due to COVID-19. All the gyms shut down and there was not any work left for her. Until then, Hall had never taken time off, been unemployed, or just had only one job her whole life. This seemed like the perfect time to get back to Redwood Acres and commit to the ghee.
And yet, another obstacle came with a butter shortage. Because Hall had not been regularly ordering butter, her supplier was not going to prioritize her.
“I was grateful that unemployment exists because it allowed me to hold onto the kitchen til I could finally get butter at the end of the year,” Hall said.
When she finally managed to get butter, everything seemed to line up quickly. Hall thought about selling her ghee at the Arcata Farmers’ Market.
“The person I house-sat for told me it was impossible to get a booth at the Farmers’ Market. There’s a waiting list and they prioritize farmers,” Hall said. “I also think that they don’t allow two booths to sell the same thing.”
She tried anyway, and got into the winter market. Since then she works multiple markets a week and distributes to local stores to sell her ghee.
When she first started, she was selling four flavors. Now she carries 30 flavors on her menu and rotates them. Ghee Well also featured special flavors for events like Oyster Fest, and marketed them with one of her promotional alter-egos of hers.
Take a look for yourself. Here is Fishi Minaj:
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