“Have you been here before?”
That’s the first thing you’ll hear walking into Tzima Brown’s Sunrise Artisan Bath and Body, the bright yellow shop on Saluda Avenue. Brown greets every customer with that question and her bubbly personality.
“You walk into Sunrise, and you can't help but to feel something special because there's just this positivity there,” Keven Cohen, who worked with Brown at 100.7 The Point radio, said. “And that's a reflection of Tzima.”
But Brown is naturally an introvert and said she had to train herself to be an extrovert.
It takes a lot of energy to make customers feel at home, especially for introverts, Kelly Tabor said. Tabor, the owner of Good for the Sole Shoes and Accessories, has known Brown for four years – both are self-described introverts.
“We can do it for so long, but after eight hours, like, I'm done; I'm ready to go home,” Tabor said.
Brown said in her “perfect world,” she could just work behind the scenes doing the things she loves. But the customer experience outweighs that desire for Brown.
“It's really important to me that people feel good when they come here,” Brown said. "That's more important to me than me being an introvert by myself.”
Sunrise Artisan does still provide some of that “perfect world” for her. The workspace in the back, which Brown calls her “art studio,” gives Brown the room to make her tie-dye bath bombs, cupcake soaps and all-natural deodorants, and it also gives her a space to breathe.
It hasn’t always been that way.
Last year, Brown was making her signature soaps in a 4 feet by 8 feet hallway on Santee Avenue, across the parking lot from her current location. Boxes of products and supplies were stacked high and hidden in nooks. She could barely walk in the cramped space.
Last year, Brown almost gave up on her business.
“I'll never forget, it was raining. I think I had $42 to my name. I'm walking across the parking lot, crying, because I just hit a wall," Brown said. "I was like, ‘I'm done. I don't have anything left.’”
Originally from Washington, D.C., she now proudly lists “South Carolina” on all her bath and body products. She started making soaps in 2005 when she picked up a discount soap making kit from a hobby store. It turned out awful, but it was more than enough to spark her love of soap making.
After selling products out of the back of a yoga studio for 10 years, Brown finally opened the brick-and-mortar shop on Santee in 2016. She was in Five Points, but she was tucked away from the hustle and bustle – and the foot traffic – of Saluda Avenue.
She loved what she was doing, but the small space and lack of customers caused her to hit her “proverbial brick wall.”
But when you hit that wall, “there's always a way through. Always,” Brown said.
Her way through came in the form of a gift from Judith Roberts, Brown said. Roberts, the former owner of Portfolio Art Gallery, was closing up shop in 2019, and Brown had first dibs on the spacious place.
This was finally a recognition of all the hard work and long nights Brown had put in throughout the years, she said. It was good to know someone had been paying attention, especially after nearly five years of being in Five Points.
“It's not overnight. What it is, is persistence,” Brown said. “You have got to take time to remind yourself, ‘That's right. This is why I do this.’ And that's going to give you the energy to get through that.”
Now that she’s on Saluda, Brown said, “words don't describe it. It truly is like night and day. The vibe, the location, the people.”
Apart from her business, Brown is also a radio personality, another thing that’s quite outside her comfort zone as an introvert. For about seven years, she has worked with Cohen, the general manager of 100.7 The Point Radio.
“She was always willing and able to fill in, and the station would never miss a beat,” Cohen said. “It was just nice to know you had someone who could always step in, that cared.”
Along with running her business and her work in radio, Brown is also a mother. Though her children are all grown now, the experience still shapes her and Sunrise’s future. Brown’s goal is to start a factory with an onsite daycare so mothers can easily come to work knowing their child is taken care of.
“I know what that struggle was like. And I just, if I can create something that's going to help the next young woman that comes behind, we make it a little easier for her,” Brown said.
In the Saluda Avenue shop, there’s a map on the wall with pins scattered across the country. Each pin represents a place Brown has sent her products. Tabor credits Brown’s reach to two things: her product quality and Brown herself.
“If anyone else tried to duplicate what she does, they couldn't do it,” Tabor said. “There's absolutely no way they could. They might be able to make the product, but it wouldn't be Tzima.”