Growing up, Kyra Lumpkin lived in pretty much every major city in the United States. With every new environment, she quickly learned that the concept of home had to mean more than just four walls. “I had to make peace with the idea that home was not going to be a place for me,” says Lumpkin. “It was always going to be an ideal or set of people or a moment in time.”
It’s a theory that encapsulates Penrose Apothecary, Lumpkin’s line of sustainable, hand-crafted candles, body oils, perfume oils and room sprays with thoughtful like names Bizarre Adventure and Pleasure Principle that she wants people to integrate into their everyday sanctuaries and living spaces. “I joined the two concepts of home and healing,” says Lumpkin, of her brand’s mission and name. Penrose comes from Penrose Street, where her grandparents’ house was located, and where she felt most at peace growing up.
For now, Lumpkin, also a mother of three, operates as a one-woman show and hopes people who shop her products find peace in knowing they were made with precision and care. “Everything is very intimate and hands on—I touch everything,” she says. “I even create my vessels myself.” And even when she brings on more team members, “this is a model I don’t plan on letting go,” she adds.
Sweet July spoke to Lumpkin about what’s in the works for Penrose Apothecary and how the soul of her company will continue to be “synonymous with warm welcoming and inviting.”
You pride yourself on building a community that goes beyond products. How do you do this?
I’m very conscious about the customer experience. And I hate using the word customer because I don’t speak to them like strangers. I try to make everyone feel at home, even for a moment. At pop-ups, I’ve had people sit at my booth for two hours—they didn’t even buy anything and I don’t want them to ever feel pressured to. Maybe they just needed to talk or hang out or feel cared for in that moment. I try to be as warm as possible. I try to be honest, transparent and real. It’s relationships over everything.
How does your other job, as a mother, carry over into your business and contribute to your success?
It helps with the voice of Penrose. I love my children very much. I definitely say that I raised them with a very gentle hand. And I lead with love. That helps me a lot when dealing with Penrose. I think a lot of people—especially Black people of my age and generation—were not always led with love. And when you see it and feel it as an adult, it definitely stands out to you. And it hits you in a soft place. My children have helped me be mindful of how I make other people feel.
Courtesy of Penrose Apothecary
What do you think the value is of being based in the Oakland/Bay Area community?
I think that Penrose has garnered a rapid and immense level of success that I didn’t predict. And I strongly attribute that success to the Oakland community. Nowhere is like Oakland—the way they support Black people. They show up and they show out. I think Oakland, historically, understands the Black story. Oakland understands Black excellence and Black greatness and what it takes to achieve.
What’s forthcoming for Penrose Apothecary?
I have an event series called MakeHome where people can come and make scents—I’ll teach them how to make their own—and they can turn it into all the formats that Penrose offers and take it home with them.