When your last name is Simms, you are pretty much restaurant royalty in Los Angeles. We caught up with the sisters Simms, twins Boo and Sarah, who’ve parlayed their family’s hospitality roots into an incredible business called Lady & Larder in Santa Monica. Don’t just trust their celebrity clientele’s rave reviews …be sure to check out their wine, cheese and charcuterie wizardry for yourselves. We asked Boo and Sarah to share some of their entrepreneurial history in honor of Women’s History Month as we celebrate the fabulous females who are reshaping life in the California as we know it.
You come from the South Bay’s most well-known restaurant family. Did opening your own food business seem inevitable?
Boo: We have been playing “restaurant” since we were kids. Our dad would bring home aprons and server books and we’d set up imaginary kitchens in the living room. Then our first job at 14 was making milkshakes at local burger place.
Sarah: The biggest advantage is having our dad just a phone call away. He’s the smartest guy we know, and he’s worked in the hospitality industry his whole life. Chances are, when things hit the fan, it will be something that he’s dealt with before.
Boo: Totally! Biggest disadvantage? Running restaurants means long hours but our dad always found a way to make up for it- often bringing us with him to work on the weekends. We spent a lot of time hanging out in booths or sneaking honey bran muffins behind the counter.
I hear your business model for Lady & Larder began with a scribble on a napkin. From napkin through pandemic to current successes, how would you advise would-be entrepreneurs to get started?
Sarah: The best way to get started is to just start. You don’t need to be 100% ready or sure of how it is all going to happen or turn out—just start by taking steps, even small ones, in the direction you want to go. It helps to put your dreams on paper (hence the napkin!). We’ve learned it is hard to score a goal if you don’t know where the net is. Can you tell we played a lot of soccer growing up?
Boo: Agreed. Get your vision on paper. Draw a picture of what your dream looks like and tape it up. When choices come up in your life, ask yourself, “does this help me get a step closer to my dream?” If it doesn’t, it’s a “no”. No guards time.
What was your biggest stumbling block and what’s your biggest asset?
Sarah: When we set to build the business, without proof of concept, it felt impossible to get meetings, and very often our phone calls were never returned. You hear “no” a lot. You have to wholeheartedly believe in what you are pursuing and stay the course until you get a “YES”.
Boo: Biggest asset? I think it’s each other. Surround yourself with people you trust and people who will push you to be your best. Also, partner with and/or hire people who know a lot about something you don’t. We try to surround ourselves with people we can learn from.
A lot of what distinguishes your brand is your own fabulous selves—your fashion sense, your social media presence and your beautiful pics. All of this is achieved with a rare amount of sincerity too; you’re not just influencers, you’re actually influential. How do you describe L&L’s brand DNA? What makes your cheese and charcuterie and wine programming so drool-worthy?
Sarah: So much of what we focus on are the humans—the farmers, the cheesemakers, the winemakers—sharing their stories is such a privilege. We get to champion the best people and products. Our curiosity and enthusiasm is something we aren’t afraid to share and show. We love learning along with our customers. There’s a lot of transparency in everything we do and I think that really helps us create authentic, long-term relationships and as you know, in this industry, and life in general, is all about relationships.
Boo: Because of the relationships we have built with our farmers and makers, we are able to carefully source ingredients at their peak so they taste their best. I think the concept of wabi-sabi plays a big role in what we do too. We focus on the imperfections, simplicities, the natural state of what’s in season. We don’t manipulate mother nature’s work. We celebrate it and let it do its thing!
Let’s talk farmers’ markets and get the inside scoop. What should our readers be on the lookout for this spring? Any special family farms you like to support? Your vegan boards are a beauty to behold. As more folks move to a plant-based diet, have you seen an uptick in this category?
Sarah: Spring is such a magical time at the farmers market—we are seeing daffodils and lots of tree blossoms (plum!) which means that peas (English, snow and sugar snap), asparagus, blood oranges, good strawberries and ojai pixies are just days away. There are too many wonderful farms to list. Some of our favorites include Windrose, Beylik, Valdivia, Weiser, Wong, Polito, Schaner and Tamai Family Farm. We work with our dear friend and urban farmer, Hans Fama, who grows a lot of things special for us, including baby radishes, edible flowers, passion fruit and lots of herbs. We are so lucky here in California to have the access that we do to such incredible produce.
You’re both working mothers, and Sarah, you’ve also recently recovered from a bout with cancer. How do you manage self-care with the demands of your growing business? I note you’re one of the few small food businesses out there that also offers full 100% paid PPO health coverage to your employees. Amazing. How would you characterize your approach to running a family-oriented business?
Sarah: I’m the best version of me when I get enough sleep, drink enough water and start my day on my Peloton bike. Those things matter. Evenings and weekends with my family always grounds and recharges me. More than ever, I wake up knowing that every day I get to continue doing work I care about is such a gift. I’ll always be grateful to cancer for that perspective. Boo and I get to work with each other, our childhood dream, and alongside the best team of humans. We lean on each other, and we aren’t afraid to ask for help. We show up each day at the shop with full hearts and try to do things a little better than we did them the day before. We don’t win all the days. Some days are big learning days. That’s OK. We know that if we can create an environment that our team can thrive in then they will take care of our customers the way we take care of them.
Boo: I couldn’t have said it better myself!As far as selfcare, I’m still learning how to balance it all. But I think waking up early and dedicating the first hour of my day to me, has been a real game changer. An hour to read articles, workout, drink my coffee with set intentions for the day. Then once the babies wake up I can show up for them and be fully present. I think becoming a mother was the most wild metamorphosis that no amount of reading can prepare you for. To see yourself through the eyes of your kids. They really show you where your strengths and weaknesses are … and quick! My girls provide such incredible perspective. At the end of the day, family is everything.