Sarah Love Hart didn't want to choose between her two passions, retail and cooking -- so she didn't.
It's been nearly three years since Hart opened Hart & Hive Provisions in North Chattanooga, which she describes as a "European-style market and gift shop.
"It's all my favorite things in one place," the Chattanooga native says. "You can come in and buy dinner, then buy a gift or something for yourself."
Hart launched a second location this August in the Ooltewah/Collegedale area. Just a couple of months back, she rebranded the kitchen where food is made for Hart & Hive -- now called Queens Kitchen, just across the street from the original shop.
"I didn't know how I could create food for a living and still be in retail," says Hart. "So I created my own destiny. I just made it up."
What Hart hasn't had to conjure are big sales at the holidays. In a typical year, she says, November and December sales at her North Chattanooga store have accounted for about 40% of its annual revenue.
"We're decorated the first day of November and it begins when we open the next day," she says. "November and December are absolutely wild and so much fun -- so fast-paced, which we love. You can't be in retail and not enjoy the holidays."
Hart, 37, says she left Chattanooga in 2004 for Charlotte, North Carolina, where she studied at Johnson & Wales University's renowned culinary program. At the same time, she says, she got one job in a wine bar and another managing a boutique.
After graduation, she says, she continued to split time between the two jobs -- until the boutique offered her the chance to work as merchandiser and trainer for 13 of its stores in the Carolinas.
"I did that and loved it," she says. "That was how the retail aspect came to fruition for me."
Hart says she returned to Chattanooga in 2011 and, with her future husband, Hunter, opened Brewhaus on Frazier Avenue. When the global pandemic hit in 2020, they pivoted to selling take-and-bake meals from the restaurant.
"It became so popular," she says. "I also had another business, selling accessories and gifts online, so I decided to merge those and create a little gourmet market and gift shop."
That was the original Hart & Hive, which she not only owns but serves as executive chef. She says she cooks four days a week across the street at Queens Kitchen, helping produce 300 pounds of chicken salad and 200 pounds of pimento cheese each week.
"I made 1,200 heirloom tomato pies this past summer," she says, referring to another Hart & Hive staple. She adds that Queens Kitchen also offers local meats and produce, sauces and pasta imported from Italy and snacks, appetizers and condiments from around the world.
Hart says guests who visit the various shops will get a unique look and vibe at each location -- which is absolutely by design.
"We're trying to make it to where we have totally different merchandise at each store," she says. "We go all-out with decorating and create a theme for each store every year.
"Ooltewah is bright -- hot pink with cotton-candy trees and stockings. (North Chattanooga) is more metallics and some traditional -- lots of hand-blown glass, golds and silvers. And Queens Kitchen is food-themed trees with cheese-and-cocktail themed ornaments."